#NoDAPL: Victory for indigenous tribe, pipeline to take another route

The US Army Corps of Engineers denied permission to construct Dakota Access Pipeline across Lake Oahe, North Dakota

WrittenBy:Ishan Kukreti
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The water protectors have faced a lot, protesting against the Dakota Access Pipeline. They stayed their ground in the face of pepper spray or dogs, water cannons, and even arrests. For the Native American tribes that have lived along the banks of the Missouri, their land was worth more than the oil it contained.  


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But now, it’s done. No more Dakota Access Pipeline, courtesy the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

“The Department of the Army will not approve an easement that would allow the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota,” a press release by the federal agency announced yesterday.

The permission to construct the pipeline over Missouri river was to come from USACE. With this one decision, it has given the protesting members of the indigenous Standing Rock Sioux tribe of North Dakota, much to rejoice for.

The Dakota Access Pipeline project–by Dakota Access LLC–was going to transport crude oil from Bakken and Three Forks oil formation in North Dakota to a crude oil terminal in Illinois. The idea was to transport oil at a cheaper rate than railways.  

The pipeline will still be constructed, but not on Standing Rock.

“The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing,” USACE’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Works, Jo-Ellen Darcy said.

The decision –a long time coming at that –drew cheers from supports –fighting against the pipeline project.

What is Dakota Access Pipeline (DAP) project?

The Bakken and Three Forks oil formations have huge oil potential. It is estimated that the region (North Dakota and south-eastern Saskatchewan) holds about 7.4 billion barrels of the stuff.

DAP is an infrastructural project to carry crude oil from these oil formations in North Dakota to the crude oil terminal at Patoka, Illinois. The project involved laying 1,172-miles of 30-inch diameter pipes. A daily load of 470,000 barrels was to be transported to Illinois. The oil then would be shipped to the world oil markets in Midwest, East Coast, and Gulf Coast markets.      

The improved ability of tapping oil reserves that came with hydraulic fracturing or fracking has increased the oil production capacity of shale rocks manifold. Fracking is a technique of extracting oil from sedimentary rock –oil shales –by fracturing them.

The spike in the case of Bakken region has, too, been tremendous -309,000 barrels a day in 2010 to more than one million barrels a day in 2014.

This spike in oil production was what lead to the inception of DAP in July 2014. The benefits of the pipelines would go beyond just cost of transporting the oil according to Energy Transfer Partners LP owned Dakota Access LLC. Construction jobs to 8,000 to 12,000 people and “millions in state and local revenues during the construction phase and an estimated $156 million in sales and income taxes.”

So what was the problem?

The plans of constructing the thousand mile long pipeline did not sit well with the indigenous Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The tribe is based in the Sioux County on the southern border of North Dakota.

The pipeline endangered the sacred sites of the tribe, including the tribe’s burial grounds. “They’re going under the river 500 yards from my son’s grave, my father’s grave, my aunt who I buried last week,” Ladonna Allard, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe told The Guardian.  

Moreover, there was concern that the pipeline would threaten the Missouri, the area’s primary source of drinking water.

Pipelines have had a precedent of spills. The most recent being the Husky Energy pipeline spill in July this year. In North Dakota, the pipeline crosses the Missouri.

The risk of spills was also established by an International Energy Agency report. According to the report, between 2004 and 2012, pipelines spilled three times more crude oil than trains.

“Without water there is no life, and this is our main source,” another tribe member, Dakota Kidder, told The Guardian. “It’s not just our issue. Everybody downriver of us is going to be affected, all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. We’re not just looking out for ourselves; we’re looking out for all people,” he added.

The construction of the pipeline in Standing Rock was also an encroachment on the indigenous people’s tribal sovereignty. Tribal sovereignty is a federally recognised right which empowers the indigenous people to govern themselves within US borders. US government was obliged to consult the tribal government before taking a call on the project according to US treaties and the United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.     

The decision is of major significance for the tribe. The long struggle for clean environment to live in has been successful and that is exactly how Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II felt about it.

“This is something that will go down in history, and I know that it’s a blessing for all indigenous peoples,” he told media.

However, this might simply be a momentary respite. Energy Transfer Partners has stated they are unwilling to reroute the project. The company released a press statement that called the decision a “purely political action” and that “nothing this administration has done today changes that in any way.

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