By: Meghan Malas
The installation of the North Dakota Pipeline has continued to raise controversy over the final months of 2016. The project itself is estimated to cost over 3.7 billion dollars, and result in the transporting of nearly 470,000 barrels of oil a day across four states, including North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois. The hope is to sell this oil to markets and refineries all around the United States, boosting the domestic economy and lowering the dependency on foreign oil. The developer of the project estimates that the pipeline will bring 156 million dollars in taxes to state and local governments and supply as many as 12,000 jobs (CNN).
At first glance, this looks like a project that could be beneficial for the communities surrounding it, but instead the project has met with great controversy. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe began their fight back in July, after the project was first granted its final permits. They argued the pipeline was a threat to their economic and environmental well-being, and that the US government had no right to pursue the project in the first place on the grounds that the area that the pipeline will be constructed is part of a Native American reservation, and thus will destroy sacred burial grounds and historical artifacts. The location of the pipeline is actually 38 miles north of the Sioux tribe’s camp, but many of the tribe’s leaders state that the land was granted to them by a land treaty in 1851.
Since July, the anti-pipeline movement has spread beyond members of the Native American tribe. Hundreds of protesters from all around the country have gathered in opposition to the project. Veteran groups recently joined the protest in defense of the Native Americans, and Senator Bernie Sanders has openly denounced the pipeline as an environmental threat and a disrespectful action towards the Native American tribe. But as we move into the colder months of the year, problems have risen involving the protestors’ ability to handle the harsh winters in North Dakota. As weather conditions intensify, along with the tension between police and protesters, the possibility of ending the construction of the pipeline** is diminishing. However, over two thousand veterans have vowed to protect the protesters if there is violence. With regards to the weather, one protester states, “The weather hasn’t stopped anyone. Everyone is adapting because they know we have to win this fight and save our land.” (NBC)
Whether the pipeline or the protest will prevail is unclear at this point in time, but more legal action is expected to take place. If those siding with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe succeed, a new precedent may be set for the way the national government treats Native American groups and their land.
**At time of publication, the US Army Corps of Engineers denied a permit to DAPL easement.