The Big Commotion: Overview of the Dakota Access Pipeline

By Allegra Simpkins

In recent months, a media light has been shining on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation.

National attention is now being paid to the protests surrounding the construction of the crude oil pipeline that is designed to run underground, not far from the reservation land.

The 1,172-mile, $3.7 billion project was designed to enable the transport of domestically produced oil from North Dakota to Illinois in a cost-effective manner, reducing the dependency on foreign oil, and was expected to be in use by the fourth quarter of this year, which is fast approaching.

The Army Corps of Engineers, who can approve or deny the project, is currently reviewing approvals previously granted in July to build the pipeline, and the clock is ticking.

Initially, the pipeline was routed through North Dakota’s capital city, Bismarck, but due to the concern that if the pipeline ever broke it would cause too much damage to the city’s water supply, it was re-routed near the Standing Rock reservation.

Protesters are using this time to educate the nation on the risks of building while Energy Transfer, the company building the pipeline, claims it is safer and far less expensive than moving oil on trains and trucks which can crash and create major spills and devastating fires.

Some people oppose the pipeline because they would rather see government funds go towards renewable energy sources instead of oil in regards to climate change, but notably, while these renewable sources are being researched and tested, the necessity of oil will not cease for a number of years.

Others are strictly against the pipeline due to the long-standing tradition of power-play from the government against Native American Tribes. They have said that the fact that the pipeline route was changed from Bismarck towards Standing Rock insinuates to the public that those lives are less valuable.

Those who believe the pipeline endangers the environment and puts water sources at risk are not wrong to believe it could cause problems. While the United States is webbed with over 2.5 million miles of pipelines carrying oil and natural gas safely, an average of 500,000 gallons of oil is spilled each time a pipeline breaks.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration reported that in 2015 alone there were 328 incidents regarding pipeline leaks or spills resulting in upward of $300 billion in cleanup costs along with 49 injuries and 10 fatalities.

The residents of Standing Rock and those who stand in solidarity with them are doing everything in their power to keep this pipeline from being built, but ultimately the decision to build will go to the Army Corps of Engineers, though no date has been set for the decision to be made.