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November 7, 2016
By Yosan Alemu, Wheaton North
For weeks, Native Americans all across the United States have gathered in North Dakota to protest what they call “the last indignity of a history filled with extermination and exploitation.” Members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe see the pipeline as a major environmental and cultural threat.
In an L.A. Times news report published in August 2016, this protest began after Energy Transfer Partners secured the majority of its permits for the pipeline, both federal and state. The $3.7 billion project, spearheaded by Dakota Access, consists of a 1,170 mile pipeline that could potentially carry more than 570,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois. In a recent story covered by CNN, the construction on a section of the pipeline would sink beneath the Missouri River, leaving risk for future water contamination. The construction has been halted under orders from the sheriff of Morton County, Kyle Kirchmeier. In a statement given by Kirchmeier, more than thirty protesters were arrested in recent weeks, thus creating safety concerns.
The possibility of an oil spill is within the frames of reality. In 2013, a Tesoro Logistics pipeline in North Dakota broke open and spilled 865,000 gallons of oil onto a farm. In 2010, an Enbridge Energy pipeline dumped more than 843,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, resulting in a cleanup that lasted years and cost more than a billion dollars, according to InsideClimate News. ProPublica, in a 2012 examination of pipeline safety, reported that more than half of the country’s pipelines were at least fifty years old. Critics cited old pipelines and lack of federal oversight as factors that put the environment at risk.
As stated in a September 2016 MIC article, lawyers from Earthjustice are representing the Standing Rock Sioux in a legal effort to stop construction of the pipeline. The Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), which approved the Dakota Access project, is under accusations of violating the National Historic Preservation Act. Earthjustice claims The USACE did not conduct a more stringent environmental review, thus giving the Energy Transfer Partners the upperhand in construction. Although there is a legal battle in the works, physical confrontations along the frontlines of the protest have run rampant.
In the halls of Wheaton North, a handful of individuals are aware of the Dakota Access crisis. Isabella Petti, senior, states, “Native Americans have every right to their land; it isn’t fair that corporations have the ability to profit off their land through unjust measures.”
Kathryn Wolf, a biology and AP Environmental Science teacher at Wheaton North also provides her insight on the matter. She states, “Corporations such as [the] Energy Transfer Partners must find alternative energy sources in order to preserve our environment. Not only is there a possibility for an oil spill in the future, continuous fracking also poses as a risk to our earth.” Wolf goes on to mention that sustainability is our only option for the future.
On September 9th, according to The Atlantic, the Obama administration made a surprise announcement by halting the construction on the pipeline. This victory came after what seemed to be a defeat, according to the onsite protesters. Although the protesters deemed the decision as a victory, five trade unions are pushing President Obama to move forward with the pipeline, claiming the delay threatens the livelihood of its members, as stated in The Hill. However, the once thought triumph quickly turned to anguish when the actions of the Obama administration did not halt the overall construction of the pipeline. In response to the corporate advances, Natives and other protestors have in even greater numbers, sending a powerful message to Washington D.C.
As tensions between the protesters and the Dakota Access Pipeline have increased, police force has risen has well. According to numerous Twitter posts found within the “#NoDAPL” hashtag, on-the-scene reporters and protesters alike have documented the unnecessary, brutal force brought forth by local police and the National Guard. According to AJ+, protesters have endured rubber bullets, mace, and unjustified arrests–including Hollywood stars such as Shailene Woodley.
Dave Archambault, the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, puts in a few last words on the Dakota Access Pipeline: “Every time there’s a project of this magnitude, so the nation can benefit, there’s a cost. The cost is born by tribal nations.” As Archambault’s words echo through the hearts of protesters and activists, they continue to work diligently, hoping to save their home.
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