Indianz.Com > News > Trump administration overturns historic $187 million judgment in Indian land case
Buffalo’s Fire Video: Trespass: Tribe, contractor sued for Missouri River water sales
Statement of Landowners in Chase et al. v. Endeavor
Thursday, December 17, 2020
Source: Jenner & Block LLP

WASHINGTON (DECEMBER 17, 2020) – Since at least June 18, 2013, Andeavor Logistics LP, through various subsidiary companies – all of which were recently purchased by Marathon Petroleum Corporation (Marathon) – has been in willful trespass on the lands belonging to individual Indians on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota as demonstrated in proceedings before the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). As shown in those proceedings, Marathon companies have used the land without any lease, permission, or current right-of-way and without any compensation to the Indian landowners.

On July 2, 2020, the Great Plains Regional Director for the BIA, Tim LaPointe, issued a decision holding Marathon liable for $187,158,636 for this trespass on 80% of the tracts. The decision also required that Marathon “immediately cease and desist use of the pipeline.” Marathon appealed that decision to the Interior Board of Indian Appeals (IBIA).

In a highly unusual move, the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, Tara Sweeney, assumed jurisdiction of the appeal and then did not allow for any briefs from the landowners. Thereafter, she issued a decision vacating and remanding the LaPointe decision.

In a stunning development, Regional Director LaPointe – presumably at the direction of Sweeney and Counselor to the Secretary John Tahsuda – was required to issue a revised decision on December 15, 2020. That decision reduced the amount of compensation to a mere $3,600,000 to be divided among all the landowners.

“This is shameful, there is no other way to put it,” said named plaintiff JoAnn Chase. “This is old-style theft from Native people so that Trump’s Interior Department can carry the water for the fossil fuel industry.”

Added landowner Eunice White Owl: “The BIA is supposed to be our trustee and here this administration is in cahoots with Marathon in an effort to whitewash this trespass.”

Keith Harper and Dustin Greene, counsel for the plaintiffs, said “we are studying the decision. It appears to be wrong in many respects. The drastic difference between the two decisions demonstrates one thing: that the BIA does not have any established policies or procedures for addressing trespasses by pipeline companies on Indian land. This is why the courts have routinely held that Indian landowners can bring direct suit in federal district court, and protect their own interests. We are very interested in learning how and why the Assistant Secretary took a particular interest in this case, and why the BIA’s methodology changed so dramatically in the short time between the two decisions.”

Plaintiffs in Chase et al. v. Andeavor are jointly represented by Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP and Jenner & Block LLP.

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