Dakota Access Pipeline assaults ethics, environment


Hundreds peacefully march to protest pipeline in North Dakota

After a bravely fought battle against police brutality and big business, the people of Standing Rock were giving their way on Dec. 4. The Dakota Access Pipeline was rerouted to circumvent Lake Oahe after the Army Corps of Engineers denied the easement to build under it. While I commend those who so bravely fought to maintain their rights and protect their land, the fight is still not over.

In fact, as of Trumps inauguration on Jan. 20, Dakota Access will be facing an audience much more sympathetic to its cause. We must keep fighting each and every day to protect our own rights and give a voice to the quietly enduring environment.

Proposed to run from the Northwest corner of North Dakota to Southeast Illinois,  the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), also known as the Bakken Oil Pipeline, would transfer just under 20 million gallons of oil per day. The conduit is funded by Dakota Access, a subsidiary of Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners.

While the decision to reroute the conduit is certainly a victory for the people of Standing Rock, this outrage of a project was not rerouted in time stop irreparable damage to the environment, the people of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation and the reputation of the Morton County Police Department.

The project originally cited eminent domain, a law allowing the government to seize lands for public use,  and the plan for the pipeline proposed that it run through the Missouri River north of the town of Bismarck. This plan rightfully was scrapped due to concerns over the effect it would have on Bismarck’s drinking water and was then rerouted to pass through Sioux territory.

Due to incredible resistance from Native tribes all over the country and most recently, thousands of veterans who arrived to give the protestors a break on Dec. 2nd, the Army Corps of Engineers chose to deny the easement to build under Lake Oahe. Lake Oahe is the main water source for Standing Rock and the pipeline would have inevitably contaminated it.

This attempted offense against the Sioux tribe would have been almost laughably predictable were it not so damaging to the lands, culture and daily lives of the people of Standing Rock. As early as 1625, tribes have been mistreated (though often far worse) by settlers as the colony of Jamestown did to the Pamunkey Indians and many tribes thereafter.

The destruction of Native American tribes, whether it be taking their land, burning their homes or slaughtering them, is practically a hallmark of Americanism. While yes, these events are long past, the mistreatment and disregard of Native Americans is a theme that the United States can’t or simply doesn’t want to shake.

According to Associated Press, between 2012 and 2013 nearly 300 pipeline spills occurred in North Dakota alone. Pipeline spills are typically larger and more damaging than spills from any other means of oil transportation. A spill near the water source for Standing Rock would have been devastating for the Sioux tribe living there and everyone downstream. Protestors at Standing Rock were thus hailed as “Water Protectors.”

While the rerouting of the pipeline is a hard fought victory for the people of Standing Rock, it is by no means a win for a much more silent victim: the environment.

The pipeline’s construction alone will affect the environment but combined with the prevalence of devastating oil spills, it becomes a truly destructive combination. Obviously the people of Standing Rock would have been affected but anyone downstream of the pipeline will still be. The habitats surrounding the pipeline for all 1,172 miles of it will be damaged and animals and plants will struggle to survive in water and land permeated by oil.

Moreover, the very oil that will be killing the plants and harming the people and animals around the pipeline is oil harvested through fracking. Fracking is a method of extracting gas by drilling into the earth and pumping in a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and other materials.

Using huge amounts of water, a finite resource, it can induce “small earth tremors” according to a United States Geological Survey. So, a method that damages the environment and uses huge amounts of water, is being used to harvest a material that will be shipped through a pipeline to damage more of the environment and contaminate more water.

There are many similarities between the Standing Rock protest and many peaceful protests throughout history but the most glaring connection is police brutality. According to the New York Times, rubber bullets, pepper spray, beanbag rounds and taser guns have all been used against the peaceful protestors of Standing Rock. Private security hired by Dakota Access joined police.

According to the Washington Post, police used water cannons against protesters in late November. While this may seem gentle compared to other brutalities protesters have suffered, water cannons in the below freezing temperatures of North Dakota’s winter can be deadly. According to protesters at least 17 people were taken to the hospital after being doused with the freezing water, some suffering symptoms of hypothermia.
Police, decked out in full riot gear, use these drastic means to quell protesters exercising their First Amendment rights. The job of law enforcement is first and foremost to protect the members of the community. Yet at Standing Rock one found police who are at no personal risk, wearing full riot gear, using extreme measures on peaceful protesters. Furthermore, in addition to directly harming them, police hindered efforts that are clearly in the community’s best interests.

Yes, the pipeline has been rerouted and yes, we all owe Standing Rock protesters a debt of gratitude for giving us another example of civilian victory against oil tycoons but no, the fight is not over. As long as there is any threat of something as destructive to the environment as the Dakota Access Pipeline, we must be prepared to protest as those at Standing Rock have and treat their victory not as an anomaly but as a precedent.