By: Grace Komrska
Summary: The Dakota Access Pipeline, otherwise known as the Bakken Oil Pipeline, is a line extending 1,172 miles across North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois. The pipeline carries crude oil through North Dakota to Illinois, where it links with another pipeline network that transports the oil along the Gulf of Mexico. The construction of this 3.8 billion dollar project was highly controversial as part of it would be built under Lake Oahe, part of the Mississippi River, which is the main water supply for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The pipeline runs 4 feet underground, and under Lake Oahu it would run around 95-110 feet beneath the surface. The main concern of the tribe is that the pipeline could potentially contaminate the drinking water and disturb sacred lands. In July of 2016, the tribe filed a lawsuit against the U.S Army Corps of Engineers for violating the National Historic Preservation Act. They had claimed that the consultation process, before construction, was fundamentally flawed. They also claimed that the Army Corps of Engineers improperly issued construction permits and failed to conduct adequate environmental analysis. In late 2016, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe unfortunately lost the lawsuit, but the Obama Administration stepped in and halted the construction of the last bit of the pipeline that would go under Lake Oahu. Despite the large and constant opposition, in February of 2017, President Trump issued an executive memorandum issuing the Army Corps to expedite the permitting process. This caused the large scale arrests of many protestors after they were ordered to leave the area, as construction would soon continue. The construction of the pipeline was finished by April of 2017, and the first oil delivered through the pipeline occurred in May of 2017. In recent news, in March of this year, a U.S District Judge ruled that the government had not studied the pipelines effect on the quality of the human environment. The temporary shutdown ordered by U.S. District Judge James Boasberg was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on August 5th 2020, but the environmental review is expected to continue.
Why we should care? We should care about this topic because the safety of water, air, wildlife, and farming could be greatly impacted by this pipeline. If the pipeline were to leak it would place thousands of people without fresh drinking water.
This article is important because it summarizes the main events surrounding the issues of the pipeline. I found it very interesting how it highlighted the problems with shutting down the pipeline, while also covering the aspect of the environmental issues This article shows how controversial this topic is, and how it can affect both sides greatly. Shutting down the pipeline will be costly, but environmental inspection must happen in order to keep the land and water safe. The indigenous people of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe will continue to fight for their water source and there is still so much work to be done.
Science in Action.
Dr. Stephanie Januchowski-Hartley is a post doctoral researcher at Swansea University, UK and is the president of The Society for Conservation Biology Freshwater Working Group.
Dr. Januchowski-Hartley's research focuses on understanding the impacts of infrastructure such as roads and dams on rivers and their ecosystems. The research she is doing is relevant to this topic because the pipeline can have many disastrous impacts if it were to leak. "Cleaning up leaks and spills can also take an incredible amount of resources and time; rarely fully restoring what was lost from a system. Leaks or spills into aquatic environments, like the Missouri River and associated tributaries, can have disastrous consequences beyond the direct sight of the leak or spill." says Stephanie in relation to the Dakota pipeline's many risks.