Within the cataclysmic storm of this year’s presidential election, from Trump’s lewd comments of women to the leaked e-mails of Clinton’s campaign thanks to WikiLeaks, the continuing struggle of the Sioux tribe against the Dakota Access Pipeline is unequivocally buried.
However, today, depending on who you ask, the oil pipeline is a $3.7 billion project that will cause a boom of economic growth and job opportunities in the Midwest, or it’ll be the mechanical monster that will further erode our fragile environment, contaminate our water, and desecrate sacred burial grounds.
So, here are some basic facts about both the pipeline and the opposition.
What is the Dakota Access Pipeline?
It’s a $3.78 billion investment that will create 8,000 to 12,000 jobs during construction, translating into $55 million annually in property taxes to North Dakota, South Dakota, Illinois, and Iowa, according to Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, the company responsible for this project, back in August 2016.
Furthermore, they state that the pipeline is the “safest, most efficient means of transporting energy resources,” especially since 70 percent of crude oil is already shipped through pipelines.
The pipeline will stretch from Bakken Formation, a vast deposit of oil and natural gas that has propelled North Dakota oil production. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) assessment the Bakken Formation has estimated that the formation has a mean oil resource of 3.65 billion barrels of undiscovered oil. Alongside the Dakota Access Pipeline’s hope to transport approximately 470,000 barrels per day, the company strives for greater energy independence for the United States as stated in their report.
This is why they wish to utilize the Bakken Formation’s extensive oil production—to stop importing the 7.7 million barrels per day from foreign land as they claim.
Why is there opposition?
The reason for public outcry is many, so it seems. Despite its potential for economic growth, as well as the possibility of minimizing our foreign oil intake, the construction for the pipeline would “destroy our burial sites, prayer sites, and culturally significant artifacts,” the Standing Rock Sioux tribe has said. Along with the potential desecration of their sacred grounds, despite pipeline supporters citing that the pipeline wouldn’t plow through their reservation, there are also environmental concerns from both the Native Americans and the general public.
So far in 2016, there have been over 20 pipeline accidents in the United States.
On Oct. 21, 2016, a Sunoco pipeline ruptured in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, causing an oil spill of about 55,000 gallons into the Susquehanna River. A Colonial Pipeline exploded in Shelby County, Alabama on Oct. 31, 2016, resulting in one worker death and 5 other workers hospitalized from severe burns along with roughly 250,000 spilled gallons of oil.
A Shell pipeline spilled nearly 20,000 gallons of oil in California’s Central Valley this past May. With this kind of potential for water pollution and disaster, many other tribes have joined the Standing Rock Sioux in opposition of this pipeline, fearful that their water systems will be contaminated from leaks, spills, and explosions.
Furthermore, many environmentalists believe that this pipeline, like others, would fuel man-made climate change by further relying on nonrenewable resources to sustain our energy dependence rather than investing in clean, nonrenewable resources like solar panels or wind turbines.
Countless have been arrested at the construction site, including Divergent actress Shailene Woodley and Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman. There have been violent clashes between the police and protestors, further stoking the flames of opposition.
Videos have emerged documenting these tense stand-offs: Erin Schrode, an activist and congressional candidate in California, struck with a rubber bullet while interviewing a Native man; lines of proclaiming protestors pepper-sprayed as they stand with their fists raised; blood leaking from dog bite wounds in indigenous arms; helicopters looming above the prairies as Natives and environmentalists march on excavated trenches.
So far, over 150 people have been arrested for protesting, according to the latest numbers. Many of their charges include reckless endangerment, criminal trespass, engaging in a riot, assault on a peace officer, and resisting arrest.
“The intimidation by militarized police in riot gear and unlawful arrests are an attack on the First Amendment rights of the protectors, and we again ask the Department of Justice to send observers to the area to ensure that constitutional rights are protected,” said Standing Rock Chairman Paul Archambault. “Like days of old, this is a thinly veiled attempt to dehumanize and degrade Native people. Thousands of people have come to Standing Rock in prayerful protest of the pipeline and millions more support the Tribe in our efforts to protect our sacred places and water.”
However, some see the arrests as lawful and well-deserved. According to the Police Department of Morton County, some protestors used bicycle locks to attach themselves to construction equipment and others cut holes in doors to push their concrete-encased arms though, therefore fusing their arms to the door.
Both sides seek radically different conclusions: Energy Transfer Partners wants their pipeline to be finished while the Native Americans want it to be stopped.
Remember to take into account, however, how these Native Americans have been treated over the years. They feel persecuted, they feel disavowed, and they feel insignificant compared to corporate interests and the oil industry.
Their land has been taken for centuries from Columbus, from us, and, now, seemingly from pipelines. They have a right to be concerned with their water system, especially in light of the seemingly endless stream of pipeline bursts, oil spills, and water contamination so far in 2016.
While individuals of the protests may act irrationally, overstepping their right to protest at times, the overall cause does have purpose and logical reasoning to adhere to.
And so, the nation should lend their ears to their concerns rather than bury them underneath Trump’s unearthed locker-room talk, Clinton’s resolved yet second FBI investigation into her e-mails, and other political news that has been expansively covered for months.
On the pro-side of the oil pipeline, it will lift the United States into a hopeful era of oil independence from the Middle East, create jobs for the Midwest, and cultivate our economy.
On the con-side of the oil pipeline, it will contribute to the already harmful effects of climate change, contaminate the rivers and eco-systems thriving around it, and destroy sacred burial sites of Native Americans.
You decide on if the pipeline poses a threat to our environment or is a beacon of energy independence.
Meanwhile, the Native Americans still protest to this day, claiming themselves to be “water protectors” that strive to preserve their culture, their health, and their buried dead.