The Dakota (Brakken) Oil Pipeline Protests

Posted on 2016-09-04 21:17

Map of where the Brakken Oil Pipeline will be located

A 1,170-mile oil pipeline was approved for construction by The US Army Corps of Engineers this July. As they begin to break ground in North Dakota, local Native American tribes have asked for the construction to be halted claiming it will lead to the environment degradation of their ancestral lands.

The Dakota pipeline, also known as the Bakken Oil Pipeline would transport oil from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa into Illinois. According to Energy Transfer, Partners, a U.S. Fortune 500 natural gas and propane company, the pipeline will be linked with other pipelines in Illinois, and will pump millions of dollars into local economies and create thousands of construction jobs.

However, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, whose reservation lies south of the pipelines path, is concerned about the potential threat the pipeline poses to the Missouri river and their local drinking water sources. The tribe also claims the project interferes with sacred land, and they were not properly consulted about the pipeline’s construction. The tribe has filed a complaint in court stating that, "the construction and operation of the pipeline ... threatens the Tribe's environmental and economic well-being, and would damage and destroy sites of great historic, religious, and cultural significance to the Tribe."

Over a thousand protesters have gathered during the past few weeks near the town of Cannon Ball to block construction of the Dakota Pipeline. On August 24th, 100 protesters also went to Washington D.C. to express their concern over the pipeline holding signs saying, “water is life" and "be on the right side of history, no DAPL [Dakota Access pipeline]."

Oil pipeline leaks are a regular occurrence in the United States. While many are minor there have been a significant amount of major leaks including the Tesoro Logistics pipeline in 2013 that spilled more than 860,000 gallons of oil onto a farm and the Enbridge Energy pipeline in 2010 that spilled 1,100,000 gallons into Talmadge Creek, a tributary of the Kalamazoo River. In fact, many pipelines in the U.S. are at least 50 years old, raising concerns among critics who claim that aging pipelines are more likely to cause environmental catastrophes and pose a public health issue. Energy Transfer Partners claims that the pipeline will not pollute water sources or desecrate Native American archeological sites. 

The Standing Rock Sioux with the support of numerous other Native American tribes; US Senators Bernie Sanders, Dianne Feinstein, Ed Markey, Patrick Leahy, Benjamin Cardin; the governments of 19 US cities (as of 13 October 2016); and a large public support base have appealed to both local and federal authorities to halt construction of the pipeline. On October 5 2016, federal appeals judges in Washington D.C. heard arguments over whether to stop work on the Bakken oil pipeline; a decision is not expected to be made until three or four months according to Jan Hasselman, the attorney for the Standing Sioux. 

The Bakken oil pipeline has attracted both local and international attention due to concerns regarding the local environment and the plight of indigenous peoples.  According to a BBC report, The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation has seen the largest gathering of Native Americans in over 100 years in an effort to halt construction of the pipeline and protect Native American land. 

Taylor Schaefer
Konflictcam Associate