May 9, 2017
Rhode Island The Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office (NITHPO) filed a request for rehearing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) today, accusing the agency of violating the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) by delaying the study of ceremonial stone landscapes until a year after it issued its environmental assessment of the project and by failing to consult with NITHPO to resolve adverse impacts to over twenty religious and cultural features. This is a breach of FERC’s fiduciary duty to the Indian tribe.
FERC authorized Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, LLC (TGP) to proceed with construction on the Connecticut Expansion Project on April 12, 2017. FERC’s order said that all the environment conditions had been met and federal authorizations received. NITHPO’s request for rehearing shows that procedures required under Section 106 of the NHPA were not followed.
“Instead of consulting, FERC just told us what TGP was going to do,” said Doug Harris, Deputy Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Narragansett Indian Tribe.
TGP’s Treatment Plan calls for destruction and reconstruction of one-third of the seventy-three ceremonial stone landscapes. Mr. Harris characterizes this plan as an act of desecration.
“These are ‘prayers in stone,’ ” he said. “If you take them apart and reconfigure them, then what you have is an artistic replica of something that was spiritual. Once you remove the stones, the spiritual content is broken.”
FERC not only failed to engage in meaningful consultations with NITHPO, it also delayed studying these cultural resources until it was too late to protect them.
“The NHPA requires federal agencies to study cultural resources before they issue a license, so that adverse impacts can be avoided,” said Anne Marie Garti, attorney for NITHPO. “FERC admitted that by the time the survey of ceremonial stone landscapes was performed it was too late to pick an alternative. That means FERC broke the law.”
In addition to its statutory requirements, FERC is obligated to hold government-to-government consultations with Indian tribes. It is not authorized to delegate this duty to TGP or to any other project proponent. Federal agencies are also required to treat tribal resources like assets in a trust. By waiting until it was too late to avoid these cultural resources, FERC breached its fiduciary duty to NITHPO.
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(via Climate Action Now)