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Native American Tribes Sue Trump Over 'Unlawful' Keystone XL Approval

"All historical, cultural, and spiritual places and sites of significance in the path of the pipeline are at risk of destruction."

Members of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance, including Native Americans, farmers, and ranchers from across the United States, hold a demonstration against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline in front of the U.S. Capitol April 22, 2014 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Accusing the Trump administration of failing to take into account the significant damage TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline could do to sacred cultural sites when it approved the project last year, Native American tribes from Montana and North Dakota sued the State Department on Monday and demanded that it immediately "rescind the illegal issuance of the Keystone XL pipeline presidential permit."

Represented by the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), the Fort Belknap and Rosebud Sioux tribes argue in their suit (pdf) that the Trump White House conducted "no analysis of the potential impact of the pipeline on treaty rights, no analysis of the subpar leak detection system and the potential impact of spills on Fort Belknap's tribal members, and no analysis of the potential impact on Fort Belknap's cultural resources and historic properties in the path of the pipeline, in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act."

"President Trump permitted the Keystone XL pipeline because he wanted to," NARF staff attorney Natalie Landreth said in a statement on Monday. "It was a political step, having nothing to do with what the law actually requires. NARF is honored to represent the Rosebud Sioux and Fort Belknap Tribes to fully enforce the laws and fight this illegal pipeline."

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If constructed as planned, Keystone XL would carry up to 830,000 barrels of dirty tar sands daily from Alberta, Canada to Nebraska.

"All historical, cultural, and spiritual places and sites of significance in the path of the pipeline are at risk of destruction, both by the pipeline's construction and by the threat of inevitable ruptures and spills when the pipeline is operational," the tribes' lawsuit concludes. "The failure to analyze any of these impacts was unlawful."

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