Controversies behind the Dakota Access Pipeline

Photo courtesy of | Despite widespread protest from the Standing Rock Siox and minions of other Americans, the Trump administration is advocating for the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Emily Kowalik ’18
Assistant Opinions Editor

The Trump administration is preparing to green light the Dakota Access Pipeline construction, rather than conducting a thorough review process. This pipeline mainly runs on a path diagonally through the Dakotas, Iowa and Illinois. It would be the first major pipeline to bring access to the Bakken oil fields. The pipeline would furnish a method of transporting crude that is more efficient and cost-effective than shipping in barrels by train, so there are many financial interests backing the construction of this pipeline.

But, millions of Americans, not least among them the Standing Rock Sioux, rejoiced in December when the Obama administration refused to grant the final easement that would allow the completion of this pipeline. This pipeline is seen by many as a threat to the environment and the health of the community it runs through. More than that, the pipeline also has the potential to endanger the heritage of the Standing Rock Sioux.

Backers of the pipeline acknowledge that, at this point in time, the growth and development of clean, renewable energy is increasing rapidly. Ideally, our nation should table projects such as this pipeline and advance the interest of projects which replace crude oil refining with cleaner, healthier and safer fuel options. For example, 20 cities across the continental United States and also the state of Hawaii are making efforts to switch to 100% clean sources of energy. However, pipeline backers argue that it is an unrealistic goal to envision a quick switch of the entire United States infrastructure to 100% clean energy in the near future.

The United States has around 72,000 miles of crude oil pipeline already in existence, so the idea of adding 1,000 more miles would not necessarily be viewed as such a shocking idea. However, the issue is not mired in the crude oil versus clean fuel debate. The issue is the path that such a pipeline should take and whether the need for this pipeline is so great that we should ignore the interests of Native American tribes and environmentalists.

Saying that the Dakota Access Pipeline should be re-routed is not the same as saying that crude oil pipelines should be rejected. There is a very reasonable point of contention against the pipeline that is couched in respect for the rights of Native Americans. The Standing Rock Sioux do not want the pipeline to cross a major river that is upstream of their reservation. The pipeline could contaminate drinking water and damage sacred burial sites and sacred ground near Lake Oahe.

Trump’s support of the Dakota Access Pipeline may be the source of yet another confrontation and controversy, this time with Native Americans and environmentalists. Just days after taking office, Trump signed two presidential memorandums which support the Dakota and Keystone XL pipelines.

For Dakota, Trump said he believes finishing the pipeline serves the national interest and ordered an expedited review. He also ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to consider withdrawing its December memo, which had caused the temporary halt to the project.

On the Keystone XL, Trump invited the company involved, TransCanada, to resubmit its application, and instructed the secretary of state to “take all actions necessary and appropriate to facilitate its expeditious review”. So, while the president does not have the direct power to approve either of these pipelines, his memos provide considerable encouragement and support to those who do have the power to grant the pipeline easements, while totally ignoring the concerns being expressed about the environmental and historical consequences of these projects.

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