Members of over 200 Native American Tribes have met in the hills near Standing Rock Reservation to protest against Dakota Access Pipeline. This pipeline is supposed to cross the Missouri River.
The pipeline is going to be used to move crude oil to Illinois from the Bakken Shale. The project itself is part of the Energy Transfer Partners, a Texas-based company. Major stakeholders of this company include Enbridge Energy Partners and Marathon Petroleum.
The project could pose a major environmental hazard to the region, according to the tribal members of the Standing Rock Sioux.
The main reason why the Native American tribes are now opposing its construction is because they didn’t have enough time to assess its impact.
Because the pipe passes beneath the Missouri River, crude oil could contaminate the tribes’ water supply. Their concerns about the safety of the pipes are reasonable.
In 2010, a similar project owned by Enbridge leaked over 800 million gallons of oil in the Kalamazoo River wetlands, in Michigan.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) claimed that one of the causes of the spill was improper leak detection systems.
On a similar note, the Polaris institute, an environmentalist organization, discovered that Enbridge had over 800 spills in the decade between 1999 and 2010.
The protests began on the August 10th. Since then, the campsite where the tribes have gathered is getting larger and larger.
Chief Harry Goodwolf Kindness, an American Indian Movement official claims this is the largest gathering of Native American tribes in 150 years.
Native American Tribes Discuss Ethical Concerns
The project also raises some ethical concerns. David Archimbault II, the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux council has stated in a New York Times op-ed, “Whether it’s gold from the Black Hills or hydropower from the Missouri [River] or oil pipelines that threaten our ancestral inheritance, the tribes have always paid the price for America’s prosperity.”
The Sioux consist of three major branches: the Lakota, the Dakota and the Nakota. There are now several different Sioux tribes scattered around various reservations. These reservations are in the states of North and South Dakota, Montana, Nebraska and Minnesota.
The pipeline would come very close to the ancestral lands of the Native American tribes. From a legal point of view, all they want is to delay the construction of the project. This delay would last until they’ve had enough time to assess the environmental impact of the proposed pipeline.
On the campsite itself, members cannot bring in alcohol or firearms. So far, there have been no major incidents during the protests.
According to authorities, there have been only 29 arrests and around 30 charges, but all of them have been for misdemeanors.
Some protesters want to ban the project all-together. They argue that the oil can be transported on trains and trucks, instead of through a pipe.
But experts argue that transporting oil via train can be just as hazardous as pipelines. If not even more so. A well-built system of pipes can be more effective, and safe than carrying oil on trains.
Many believe the most likely outcome of these protests is going to be a compromise. The best case scenario is that the oil company will agree to change the route of the project.
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