The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) has been condemned by celebrities, activists and misinformed joiners from around the country. Many have bought into reporting and a perception which condemns the pipeline company and law enforcement. Coverage of the protest has painted a false and dangerously divisive narrative of what’s taking place near Cannon Ball and Bismarck. Just yesterday, a rally took place on the steps of the Montana capitol, and some are protesting the involvement of Montana law enforcement at the Dakota Access protest site. Similar protests have spread throughout the country in support of stopping the pipeline’s completion.
Few understand the complexities involved with permitted activities, the consultation process, or environmental regulation. As demonstrated throughout the protests, even fewer have respect for the rule of law. Following what’s become a public debate on the matter, there’s been countless claims to demonize the pipeline company and even law enforcement. One of the more damaging accusations has been that the pipeline is “racist”. Why? Because some falsely argue the route was moved from a proposed route near Bismarck to an area closer to the Standing Rock reservation, and that in doing so, tribal members were placed in greater risk of a pipeline failure or release.
As previously reported in the Williston Herald, North Dakota Public Service Commissioner, Julie Fedorchak who oversaw permitting of the DAPL route said, “The northern route was never proposed to the PSC. We never reviewed it. There were never any meetings with Bismarck. No one from there said we don’t want it.” According to the article, Fedorchak added that safety of water and cultural resources are also paramount concerns of the Public Service Commission.
The route was the result of a proposal submitted by Energy Transfer Partners for review by the PSC, and subject to public input through a rigorous comment period. The route was also amended with recommendations by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ahead of its initial approval. The Standing Rock tribe refused multiple invitations to participate in the public meeting process. Practicality, not fear, resulted in the decision to route the pipeline through an existing infrastructure corridor, where cultural surveys had been conducted, and a natural gas pipeline already constructed.
The latest news indicates the Corps may be considering acceptable options for the company to re-route the nearly complete, $3.7 billion dollar pipeline. Protests have already resulted in costly delays in the pipeline’s completion, not to mention millions in damage to property and construction equipment, as well as aid to law enforcement efforts to uphold public safety.
The pipeline company followed the letter of the law, and has earned all necessary approvals for construction, including an earlier approval by the Corps of Engineers in July. Could this protest really be about crippling oil and gas development?
We take for granted the quality of life, the conveniences and luxuries alike, afforded to us by below ground resources. Around the world, energy scarcity perpetuates poverty. In countries without affordable, reliable energy sources, mortality rates are high and living standards are unimaginable to most.
This war on the working class, be it “green” energy policies, the keep it in the ground movement, or the protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline, has forgotten about the “us” in “industry”. Us - you, me, and everyone who benefits from and depends on the predictability that promises the flip of a switch will yield heat and light - that when the gas light comes on, a fuel station will be nearby to keep us moving in our daily lives, perhaps en route to visit loved ones, show up to work, pick up kids... - that we have the means to travel the world - and that our limitless appetite for consumer choices will be fed and delivered by timely and convenient means.
Forgotten and also taken for granted in this conflict are the “us” in “industry” making it all possible. The many hard working men and women who sacrifice time and energy to provide for their families and all of ours. Who is standing up and protesting for them? Where is that fight? Have we the public, the media and government, given up on the working people in this country? Truth be told, their voices have been washed out by the noise of the #NoDAPL protest and so many others.
Vowing to end the very resources which feed our needs and wants won’t eliminate their necessity. Instead, doing so will shift the responsibility of energy production and the jobs they provide to far less responsible countries; to countries which couldn’t care less about human rights, racial equality, or environmental protections. No one can predict how this will all play out. But as we consider the possible outcomes of the ideological debate on (energy) development and property rights, all parties ought to step back and investigate each side to this story and the like. Perhaps there’s enough empathy to go around for all parties involved.

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