Bursting conflicts of the Dakota Access Pipeline


Tribe members celebrate partial victory against the pipeline Courtesy of cnn.com

Dakota Access, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners, began construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in March 2016. Stretching from North Dakota to Illinois, this new pipeline will provide crude oil transportation services. However, a series of conflicts and controversies arose due to the pipeline’s purpose and potential impact on the environment, economy, and land.
Dakota Access is constructing the pipeline to decrease the United States’ dependency on foreign and imported oil, according to CNN. The project could also lead to an economic boom and an increase in employment.

Tribe members celebrate partial victory against the pipeline Courtesy of cnn.com
Tribe members celebrate partial victory against the pipeline.
Courtesy of CNN

Conflicts began in May 2016 when The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service temporarily revoked a construction permit in three Iowa counties because the pipeline would cross the Big Sioux River and the Big Sioux Wildlife Management Area, disrupting a sacred site for members of the Sioux tribe, according to desmoinsregister.com.
The $3.7 billion project also came to a halt July 2016 when the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe attempted to sue The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), a federal agency responsible for evaluating and issuing permits for water crossings under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, for violating the National Preservation Act. The court denied the tribe’s motion, according to grandforksherald.com.
In addition to this violation, concerns regarding the pipeline’s threats to drinking water led to the creation of the ReZpect Our Water campaign. The Native American youths who created the campaign are protesting against the potential contamination of the water supply that a breakage in the pipeline could cause. 
At Sacred Heart Greenwich, Upper School students have the opportunity to visit Red Cloud Indian School at the Pine Ridge Reservation, which is home to members of the Sioux Tribe in South Dakota. Junior Charlotte Sheehan visited the reservation this past summer.

“After my experience volunteering on the Pine Ridge Reservation, I cannot help but fear the effects the pipeline will have on the compassionate and friendly people I was able to meet,” Charlotte said.

According to the pipeline’s official website, daplpipelinefacts.com, the Dakota Access Pipeline is one of the safest in the world and has not violated any permits. In fact, USACE claimed it would begin looking for alternate routes for the pipeline, according to CNN. However, there is still skepticism among some protesters about the legitimacy of this statement.
In December, around 180,000 gallons of oil leaked into the Ash Coulee Creek in North Dakota, according to npr.org. Although the leakage came from the Belle Fourche Pipeline, it brought more attention to the dangers of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Two protesters continued to call attention to the dangers of the pipeline when they dangled from the ceiling of the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota during a Vikings football game January 1, according to The New York Times. They carried a banner with the phrase “#NoDAPL,” a hashtag widely used in raising awareness of this issue through social media. Police arrested three suspects but released them the next day, showing that the fight against the pipeline is continuing.

Protestors rallying against the Dakota Access Pipeline Courtesy of cnn.com
Protestors rallying against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Courtesy of CNN

“The environmental effects of soil degradation if the pipeline were to break, especially in a region of the United States where agriculture is a major industry, would be disastrous,” senior and Advanced Placement (AP) Environmental Science student Courtney Smith said. “A break in the pipeline would directly affect farmers and ranchers in North and South Dakota, as well as indirectly affect the production of crops and meat. It is also possible that oil could seep into water sources, endangering the health of citizens.”

As of now, the protests continue, and police officers have arrested several protesters for trespassing on private property. The number of arrests related to this protest since August is nearly 600 and the cost of policing these protests has surpassed $22 million, according to chicagotribune.com

USACE said they would take measures to conduct a study and release a statement about the environmental impact the pipeline will have at its crossing under Lake Oahe in South Dakota. The Sioux Tribe members are confident that the results will support their objections and lead to a change. However, Energy Transfers Partners has filed a motion to block this study, according to pineandlakes.com. Both sides continue to await an answer.

– Pau Barbosa, Features Editor