The Dakota Access Pipeline

When you fill up your car with gas today, give yourself a second to think beyond the immediacy of what you’re doing. There is a battle going on in the U.S. over another oil pipeline that needs your attention. It may not directly affect your energy resources today, but it definitely indirectly affects the future of energy in our country.

The Dakota Access Pipeline is a new 1,172-mile pipeline that will connect the oil rich Bakken and Three Forks production areas from northwest North Dakota south to Patoka, Ill. to be refined. Energy proponents tout the pipeline’s ability to transfer oil in a direct, cost-effective, safer and environmentally responsible manner. Meanwhile, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and environmental activists are protesting the pipeline, bringing awareness that the construction process could disturb sacred sites and affect the reservation’s drinking water.

The pipeline was approved in July and is currently in the building process. The pipeline approval process did allow time for public comments and concerns, and did contain an environmental report. But, as I’ve written about in the past, these public meetings are often not well advertised or attended and environmental reports for big projects are often lacking information, data and plans for how environmental concerns will be addressed (cough cough, the Dallas Horseshoe project nightmare).

Social media has been aflutter with protester videos, photos and petitions urging the country to get involved and take notice. In recent days, the protesting has turned violent with the use of security dogs, mace and physical force. The tension is rising.

This is a very similar story to the recent Keystone Pipeline. In 2015, President Obama denied a permit to expand the Keystone Pipeline through to the Texas coast due to environmental concerns, but TransCanada has challenged that motion in Federal Court. We could still see production of some extension form of the Keystone Pipeline. In April of this year, the current Keystone Pipeline sprang a leak resulting in an estimated 16,800 gallons spewing into the environment. These leaks are one of the main concerns with constructing more pipelines — leaks contaminate our water supply and the environment.

The Dakota Access Pipeline, called by some the “New Keystone,” has been approved to be built under the Missouri River, which provides water to millions of people and is critical habitat for fish and wildlife. The Standing Rock Sioux reservation is located near the Missouri River.

The heart of the issue is really economic incentive versus environmental concern. The pipeline will bring construction jobs to the area, and oil proponents hypothesize it will lessen our reliance on foreign oil. But how long will those jobs last and when will we understand oil is not renewable — it won’t last forever. The oil reserves around the world are in limited supply. Once we are out, we are out.

How many of you felt the 5.6 magnitude earthquake in Oklahoma a few weeks ago? Many social media accounts show people had damage miles from the epicenter. Scientists have been investigating the role fracking and injection wells have on the increase in earthquakes around oil sites. Oklahoma has had an estimated 5,000 percent increase in the number of earthquakes for their state. Extracting oil from the ground is beginning to show environmental concerns. But should we wait until it’s too late to change?

Many have brought light to Native American populations in this recent controversy and reminded us that they are the “original environmentalists.” Understanding that we are part of the environment we live in, and in order to use resources, we must also take care of those same resources.

“Treat the earth well. It was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” – Ancient Indian Proverb
I join the likes of Susan Sarandon, Shailene Woodley, Leonardo DiCaprio and more, and stand with the Standing Rock Sioux.

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