April 06, 2016

Dakota Pipeline Threatens Tribal Water Sources

Seth Abrams

In a last ditch effort to protect the Missouri river from the Dakota Access Pipeline, dozens of tribal members from South and North Dakota gathered last Friday to protest. A camp has been set up at the point where the proposed pipeline would cross the river, and protesters plan to stay until the pipeline is stopped.

Members from the Standing Rock nation, Cheyenne River Lakota, and Rosebud Sioux, are saying Tribes were not properly consulted about the proposed pipeline, which has been approved by state regulators and now awaits federal confirmation by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The proposed 1,130 mile, $3.8 billion pipeline will carry approximately 500,000 barrels a day from the Bakken oil fields in the western part of North Dakota to Illinois, and will also travel through South Dakota and Iowa in the process. It would cross the Missouri river, just yards from tribal lands, and pass through historic lands including burial grounds.

A portion of the pipeline would be constructed sixty-feet underneath the mouth of the Cannonball River, a tributary of the Missouri river and the municipal water source of the Standing Rock Tribe. If a leak or malfunction were to occur, the Tribe’s cherished water source would immediately be jeopardized.

If a leak or malfunction were to occur, the Tribe’s cherished water source would immediately be jeopardized.

There are approximately 2.5 million miles of pipeline transporting natural gas and crude oil throughout the United States, and leaks resulting in catastrophic consequences for the surrounding communities and environment occur annually.

Last year in May, a devastating spill occurred near Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara, California. The corroded pipeline spilled approximately 142,800 gallons of crude oil into the pacific ocean and coastline. Within 24 hours, the oil polluted nine miles of coastline in Santa Barbara, with an estimated $250 million in damages.

Earlier this week, a “potential leak” in southeastern South Dakota has led TransCanada Corporation to investigate and cease operations on a portion of the Keystone XL pipeline.

While most of these leaks are due to corrosive pipes that had been constructed decades prior, the same notion of “it’ll happen eventually” is at the forefront of the Dakota Access pipeline protests. Additionally, the recent developments of the Keystone XL pipeline’s infrastructure, which was built less than a decade ago, raises further issues.

Energy Transfer Partners, the Dallas-based energy company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, insists they are committed to “minimizing and mitigating the impacts to land properties,” boasting that pipelines are the safest and most efficient method of transporting energy resources.

ETP’s statements are deceptive, the proposed pipeline’s construction could seriously jeopardize the livelihood of the tribe and surrounding communities. Energy Transfer Partners are disregarding the concerns of local tribes, and a federal approval for the pipeline without a proper environmental impact study could ultimately lead to a grave environmental disaster in the region.

Pipelines are “ticking time bombs,” said Tony Iallonardo, communications director for Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, in an interview with ProPublica.

Any pipeline could rupture from inevitable exposure to the elements over time, and in this context, it is clear why Standing Rock and others are opposing it and pushing for a comprehensive environmental impact assessment.