The Dakota Access Pipeline is a large $3.7 billion oil pipeline project that could transfer more than 470,000 barrels of oil in a day from North Dakota to Illinois. However, this project would run near the Native American reservation of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe located on the border of North and South Dakota. This brings concerns between the people of the reservation and the pipeline’s contractor, Energy Transfer Partners, since the reservation sees this as an environmental and cultural threat to their homeland. On the other hand, Energy Transfer Partners is defending their project by claiming it will allow the U.S. to become less dependent on importing fuel from unreliable regions of the world.
According to CNN, Tribal Chairman David Archambult II said, “on Saturday, Dakota Access Pipeline and Energy Transfer Partners brazenly used bulldozers to destroy our burial sites, prayer sites and culturally significant artifacts.” While the U.S. government is supposed to gain approval from Native American tribes about industrial projects, the tribe claimed that this never happened. They were not properly notified about this project before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers agreed for the pipeline project. Several tribes of Native Americans were angered to the point of protests for halting the construction.
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe is worried about what could happen if this pipeline is built. An oil spill may bring catastrophic environmental results to the tribe’s land and would also run dangerously close to the tribe’s water supply, so if an oil spill were to happen, their water supply would be severely contaminated.
Dr. Greg Murray, a biological ecology professor at Hope College, agrees that the construction of additional pipelines will generally provide significant risks for the natural environment, especially with the aquatic systems. He claims that by “delaying our transition to cleaner sources of energy, development of any domestic source of petroleum actually increases our dependence upon foreign sources.” While this sounds contrary, we actually “deplete domestic sources first with technologies that could get only at the ‘easy’ oil. When those are depleted, it makes economic sense to get the ‘easy’ oil from abroad, even with the added cost of shipping.”
Not only would the environment be affected, but the construction would also disturb many burial grounds where the tribe’s ancestors are buried.
Energy Transfer Partners believes that their pipeline will save and raise millions of dollars. The corporation believes that this pipeline will help the U.S. become more independent in the fuel production. They also claim that through property and income taxes, the pipeline could make up to 129 million dollars a year. In addition, the ETP pipeline construction will also provide anywhere from 8,000-12,000 new jobs.
With this pipeline construction continuing, many protests occurred by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. Other tribes have heard about this pipeline and are supporting Standing Rock Sioux. Out of the 566 federally recognized tribes in the Bureau of Indian Affairs, 250 additional tribes and counting, have stood with Standing Rock Sioux. Nearly 3,000 to 4,000 volunteers camped out in the reservation to provide support. This halted the construction because the tribe sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and requested a preliminary injunction to stop the project. In opposition, Energy Transfer Partners sued several protesters, saying they threatened contractors who were working at the site.
Protests continued after a federal judge ruled against the tribe’s request to halt the construction. On Sept. 3rd, private security guards with dogs and pepper spray confronted a group of 500 protesters, some of whom had chained themselves to bulldozers. About 30 people were pepper sprayed and two others bitten by the dogs. On Sept. 7th, the Green Party Presidential candidate, Jill Stein, and her running mate, Ajamu Baraka, spray painted construction equipment at a protest. They were, consequently, charged with criminal trespassing and criminal mischief, both of which are misdemeanors. With no plans of halting the pipeline project, it seems that there will be no end to the protests and lawsuits.