February 5, 2017

Dakota Access Pipeline Proves a Crude Reality

Nina Robins ‘19


Protests against the construction of the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline have been underway since this past July. As demonstrations approach their five month mark, the pipeline’s opponents are as persistent as ever.
The pipeline spans 1,172 miles from North Dakota to Illinois and connects two major oil refinery areas. The North Dakota Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which inhabits this stretch, protests construction because it disrupts community structure and destroys sacred ritual and burial sites.
Even if the pipeline can provide economic benefits for America, it is not worth it if this progress is at the expense of Native American lands,” sophomore Sophie Goldman said. “These lands are not only crucial for the welfare of these tribes, but also important in their cultural history.”
Liberal media outlets, environmental groups, human rights activists, military veteran groups and various celebrities have voiced solidarity with the Standing Rock tribe, both on social media and in person at demonstrations. Most famously, actress Shailene Woodley demonstrated at several rallies and was arrested, only to return to subsequent protests. These groups have validated the Standing Rock tribe’s desire to keep its native land uninfringed upon by corporate authorities.
“The numerous protests surrounding the pipeline's creation are valid and cannot be ignored,” Goldman said. “The Native American tribes living in areas where pipeline development is planned deserve to have a say in what occurs on their lands, without the need for this protest.”
One of the most controversial factors of the pipeline’s construction is its location directly underneath the Standing Rock tribe’s main source of drinking water. If the pipe were to leak, thousands of gallons of oil would pollute this reservoir, creating a deadly problem to those who rely on it for water.
The Standing Rock tribe and its allies believe that this problem is significant and relevant. On December 5, the Belle Fourche Pipeline leaked almost 200,000 gallons of crude oil into a river tributary only 150 miles north of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The oil leak damaged the surrounding ecosystem and caused property damage. Fortunately, it was halted before polluting any drinking water sources.
For all their environmental drawbacks, all oil pipelines offer many benefits. A sound, supported pipe is a safer, cheaper and more direct alternative than a truck route.
“A pipeline could provide a safe and efficient way to transport oil or gas,” sophomore Amanda Feldman said. “Efficient transportation will reduce costs to consumers.”
In addition, using American resources keeps money in the American economy, and constructing a pipeline creates thousands of intensive jobs for American workers.
Despite orders from the governor of North Dakota preventing protests at the main pipeline construction site, opposition to the pipeline continues to occur beside construction and throughout society. Some question the benefit of investing in oil transport at all.
“I feel that we should not focus on how to ease our access to oil, and should, instead, channel our efforts into the development of renewable energy sources,” junior Matan Kogen said. “We should develop our ability to utilize them to their full potential, while reducing our carbon footprint.”
Still others support the Standing Rock Sioux tribe to honor their devotion and to engage in social justice work.
“I’m always in favor of protesting, I hate to say it,” guidance counselor Ms. Jaffe said. “Maintain the land, preserve the land, preserve the reservation.”
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