State lawmakers vote 34-30 in favor of measure, which now goes to Senate for action

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FARMINGTON — The New Mexico House of Representatives passed a Senate Joint Memorial today that recognizes the support issued by 23 tribes for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's efforts to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The measure was approved a vote of 34-30 and now moves to the Senate for action. A memorial does not have the force of law. Joint memorials are acted on by the House and Senate, according to the state Legislature website.

Senators John Pinto, D-Gallup, and Benny Shendo Jr., D-Jemez Pueblo, sponsored the joint memorial. Neither respond to a request for comment by The Daily Times.

The Navajo Nation is among the tribes supporting the effort by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to oppose the pipeline, which is noted in the joint memorial.

Legislative efforts by the Navajo Nation include the tribal council approving a bill in December that supports a call for a full environmental assessment to be conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the pipeline.

The Navajo Nation is also among 34 federally recognized tribes that filed an amicus brief in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the Feb. 7 decision by the Corps of Engineers to allow construction of the pipeline's final segment.

In addition to supporting the stance taken by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the joint memorial calls for recognizing tribal sovereignty, water and treaty rights. It also recognizes the tribe's opinion that the pipeline poses a threat to the Missouri and Cannonball rivers, as well as a threat to the health and welfare of tribal members and nearby residents.

The concerns of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe about the pipeline — which will run under Lake Oahe, a reservoir on the Missouri River — came to the forefront last summer when opponents of the pipeline camped on land near the project site.

Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners has been constructing the final segment of the 1,172-mile pipeline under the reservoir after receiving approval from the Corps of Engineers in February.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's efforts to halt the pipeline project include federal court filings.

Earlier this month, a federal judge denied a request by the tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe to halt construction. A separate request in federal court by the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe to stop oil from flowing through part of the pipeline was denied on Tuesday.

During the short discussion by state representatives in Santa Fe about the joint memorial today, Rep. Derrick Lente, D-Sandia Pueblo, spoke in favor of the measure.

Rep. Georgene Louis, D-Albuquerque, presented the joint memorial and said it serves as recognition by the state of the action taken by the 23 tribes and pueblos.

"It's really vital we protect our Mother Earth," Louis said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.

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