The Double-Edged Sword of Sovereignty by the Barrel: How Native Nations Can Wield Environmental Justice in the Fight Against the Harms of Fracking


Natural resource extraction has become an appealing form of economic growth for many Native nations. Nations have experienced booming economic growth and prosperity from oil and gas development, but this has come at the expense of environmental and social harms to their communities. These environmental and social harms develop because the oil and gas industries and the Native nations’ governments externalize costs of environmental and social protections onto the public in order to reap the benefits of saved costs. The ability to punt these environmental and social costs can be attributed to encroachments on sovereignty, institutional racism, and internal corruption, all of which cause great harm to Native citizens. Litigation against environmental and social harms is not the best solution for ensuring healthy environments when Native nations pursue economic development through oil and gas extraction. Instead, distributive and social justice policy solutions, under an environmental justice framework, can successfully provide protections to communities and the environment by forcing oil and gas industries to internalize all costs of oil and gas development and growth. This Comment, through the use of case studies, determines best practices of distributive and social justice policy solutions that Native nations can implement to internalize the costs of oil and gas extraction. Further, this Comment examines these best practices in the context of the booming oil and gas economy in the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation and the Bakken oil field.

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UCLA School of Law, J.D. May 2016

By uclalaw