Although it hasn’t made the headlines it should, you may have heard that Native Americans are protesting in North Dakota in an effort to stop the construction of an oil pipeline. Here’s what you should know.
What began in April as a protest of a few dozen members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe has grown to a gathering of thousands as other tribes have joined in the effort as they await the decision of a federal judge who will decide whether to halt the project.
The Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) would stretch across 1,172 miles from the Bakken region of northwest North Dakota to Illinois and carry an estimated 570,000 barrels of oil per day. The DAPL would snake across farmland and protected wildlife habitats in addition to crossing the Missouri River, the Mississippi River, and the Big Sioux River.
Protesters have been gathered near Cannonball, ND., which is where Dakota Access plans install pipe under the Missouri River, since April.
The Mint Press News reports:
Thousands are camped out at the Sacred Stone Spirit Camp in the biggest Native American mobilizations in years, with 60 tribes represented and 87 tribes signing statements of solidarity. All seven bands of Lakota-Dakota-Nakota Nation have not been united in 140 years, according to Jon Eagle, Sr. of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
— tara houska (@zhaabowekwe) August 20, 2016
In addition to physically blocking the project, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe has also filed a federal lawsuit seeking to halt the construction of the pipeline, which would cross treaty-protected burial grounds, ceremonial grounds, and historical sites. In the lawsuit, the tribe alleges that the Army Corps of Engineers violated that Clean Water Act and the National Historic Preservation Act. The suit claims that the pipeline will cause “irreparable” damage to sacred lands and threatens the reservation’s only water supply.
According to the suit, Dakota Access LLC violated the NHPA by not sufficiently consulting with the tribe before signing off on construction. The lawsuit further claims that the pipeline threatens the Missouri River, which is not only the sole water source for Standing Rock but is also of vital importance to the tribe culturally, as is “water” itself. The Missouri River is also the only source of water for the Standing Rock Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota Nations.
An oil spill from such a pipeline would be far from unprecedented and the tribe argues that it isn’t if there is a spill, it’s when. Enbridge Energy, who is one of DAPL’s stakeholders, does not have a good history, to say the least. The company was responsible for what was one of the worst spills in American history. More than a million gallons of oil poured into the Kalamazoo River, and it was completely preventable.
The company, naturally, is not pleased with the possibility of being told to shove their pipeline where the sun doesn’t shine.
A temporary injunction would have devastating short- and long-term impacts to the DAPL project,” the company argued. “Construction of the entire project would cease and the project itself would be jeopardized. Hundreds of deviations from the construction schedule would occur costing as much as $540,000 per occurrence. The aggregate direct impact of these changes would exceed $100 million.”
Although a decision was expected after a hearing on Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg in Washington, D.C. said he wouldn’t make a decision until Sept. 9 as he wanted more time to review the details of pipeline consultations conducted with tribal members prior to approvals. The judge’s move comes after an emergency stop was denied by a district court on Monday.
Meanwhile, protests have been heavily policed and in the past few weeks, more than 20 people have been arrested. On Monday, the state pulled state emergency resources from the protest camp, including the only water supply. The move was justified by claims that officers from the Morton County Sheriff’s Department had received threats of physical violence and pipe bombs. Protest organizers adamantly deny these allegations.
If the judge rules in favor of Standing Rock on Sept. 9, construction will be halted on the pipeline pending more rigorous tribal consultations. The Army Corps of Engineers could also end up being required to conduct an environmental impact assessment for the project in its entirety.
Featured image via Twitter