By SHREYA CHOWDHARY
December 13, 2016
” DAPL is special for its location and the people who might be affected by it. It crosses the Missouri River, less than one mile upstream from the reservation of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the Native Americans who first started the protest against this pipeline which would disturb their ancestral tribal land and could potentially pollute their source of drinking water.”
In July 2016, Dakota Access, a subsidiary of the Texas-based company Energy Transfer Partners, announced that they had received official permit approval from the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), a 1,172-mile pipeline transporting crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois. It was then that the first protests to DAPL began, in the form of legal action from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose land and source of drinking water would be disrupted by the pipeline.
Since then, the situation surrounding DAPL has been rapidly escalating; the violence has reached a point that one woman suffered a severe injury to her arm, celebrities have been arrested in an expression of their indignation of DAPL, and social media campaigns have been launched to demonstrate solidarity against its construction.
At the surface, it’s difficult to understand why this situation has erupted with such intensity over the past few weeks. DAPL isn’t exactly a unique situation in America. There are 2.4 million miles of pipeline in America, enough that one thousand more miles seem fairly insignificant, and the protest surrounding pipelines itself isn’t uncommon; just last year, a similar protest was sparked against Keystone XL, a 1,179-mile pipeline running from Alberta, Canada to Steele City, Nebraska.
If the what and the how aren’t extraordinary, then why should we care?
In the end, the future that we’re going to be stepping into, whether it be a more positive future or a future that continues to harm the environment for economic gain, is our future.
Because it’s the who, the where and the why that really matters. DAPL is special for its location and the people who might be affected by it. It crosses the Missouri River, less than one mile upstream from the reservation of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the Native Americans who first started the protest against this pipeline which would disturb their ancestral tribal land and could potentially pollute their source of drinking water.
What started in April as few tribesmen from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe camping out in Cannon Ball along with an ongoing legal battle against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), North Dakota to protest the pipeline has now exploded to full-on protest camps. And though it may seem difficult to understand why at first, a closer look reveals the environmental consequences.
While the USACE conducted an investigation of the pipeline, an independent pipeline expert found a severe lacking of details in their report. Richard Kuprewicz of Accufacts, Inc. concluded that there seemed to be an indication of shoddy pipeline construction and a lack of proper safety constructions to protect against potential oil spills. A potential oil spill could affect not only the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s only source of drinking water, but also the drinking water of nearly 17 million people downstream.
The neglection of these details indicate that the USACE failed to adequately evaluate the adverse consequence of DAPL on residents and the environment downstream. Kuprewicz’s report includes findings that support a trend of oversight in these essential areas in other pipeline constructions too, which should pose a serious concern. If there’s a history of oversight and an evident lack of protection against a potentially catastrophic oil spill, then why should we allow this pipeline to be constructed?
Proponents of DAPL talk about all the positive benefits that DAPL might yield. Its construction would create 8,000 to 12,000 new jobs (though it’s important to note that there are a far fewer number of more permanent maintenance and surveillance jobs associated with the pipeline), and an estimated $156 million in sales, which could turn around North Dakota’s receding economy. But these are just the short-term benefits of DAPL.
In the long term, the pipeline would tap into an estimated 7.4 billion gallon storage of oil in the Bakken Formation and use this oil to feed the massive demand for petroleum in America by transporting 470,000 gallons of crude oil a day—generating massive revenue.
The economic benefits of the pipeline may be great; the pipeline is certainly a step into a future of an increasingly industrial nation that’s taking advantage of its natural reserves of oil. But before we proceed into this future, we should stop and question whether this is best for our nation.
Should we really be spending $3.7 billion dollars on a pipeline that transports crude oil, rather than using this money for research on renewable energy? In fact, close to 100 scientists signed an open letter describing how DAPL is “symptomatic of the United States’ continued dependence on fossil fuels in the face of predicted broad-scale social and ecological impacts of global climate change.” They capture exactly what the main environmental issue is with DAPL; in the end, it’s not a step forward into a more positive future, as its proponents like to tout, but a step backward in a time where environmental consequences were disregarded for economic gain.
This issue is exactly why we should care about DAPL. In the end, the future that we’re going to be stepping into, whether it be a more positive future or a future that continues to harm the environment for economic gain, is our future. That’s our time to shine, to exercise our creativity and intelligence to shape the world and leave our legacy. But to do that, there needs to be a world to shape in the first place. We can’t let situations like DAPL become commonplace and not special. The moment we allow this to happen, we declare that we don’t care about our future.
Fight for our future.
Stand by Standing Rock.