Time and time again, Energy Transfer CEO Kelcy Warren promised that the Dakota Access Pipeline was following proper regulations in its construction and would not spill once complete. Despite the gratuitous amount of evidence of federal and tribal law violations and the denial of easement by the Army Corps of Engineers to drill under Lake Oahe, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) remain determined to finish construction “without any additional rerouting”— essentially admitting that they would break more federal laws if it meant completing DAPL.
However, a recent oil spill in North Dakota negates any reassurances that these oil companies care for public safety.
On Dec. 5th, a landowner near Belfield, ND — a city 150 miles away from Cannon Ball — discovered a spill from the Belle Fourche Pipeline. The leak was contained within hours, yet more than 176,000 gallons spilled in the Ash Coulee Creek, a tributary of the Little Missouri River, as monitoring equipment failed to detect the leak sooner. Two cows were found dead in the area, but it is unknown if the deaths are related to the oil spill.
Wendy Owens, spokesperson for True Companies which operates the Belle Fourche Pipeline, told Associated Press (AP) that the rupture was likely from a hillside slump, but it remains as just a theory.
Unfortunately, this company is one of many to have a massive histories of pipeline leaks. Since 2006, there were 36 reported spills totalling 320,000 gallons of oil from True Companies, 10 of which were from the Belle Fourche Pipeline alone. They also operate the Poplar Pipeline which in January 2015 leaked 30,000 gallons into the Yellowstone River, resulting in the shutdown of drinking water for the town of Glendive’s 6,000 residents.
With such news so close to the water protectors in Standing Rock, and seeing as the leak almost could have leaked into the Missouri River, it does little to reassure that ETP would be any better. This past October a pipeline operated by their subsidiary, Sunoco Logistics, leaked 55,000 gallons near the Susquehanna River. Water protectors like Dallas Goldtooth find this as more proof the the oil industry’s corruption and lacking care for public safety.
“This should encourage everyone who believes in protecting Mother Earth that we need to examine and critique every fossil fuel project that’s being put on the table,” Goldtooth said in an interview with NBC News.
Nothing that any of Energy Transfer’s officials say will erase the fact that they not only violated environmental protection laws, but also tribal treaties and rights, leading to excessive police force within the past few months. Their refusal to properly acknowledge any human rights violations or the order of the Obama Administration because they’ll lose a lot of money paints how little Energy Transfer cares about anyone or anything but their profits.
With Energy Transfer too stubborn to listen to reason, the water protectors remain near Cannon Ball to continue protesting through the winter months.
According to Lakota People’s Law Project attorney Chase Iron Eyes in an interview with TYT Politics, there are still more than a thousand people in Oceti Sakowin Camp — now referred to as Oceti Oyate, or the People’s Camp — committed to remain until the pipeline is completely gone. While the announcement denying easement to ETP is in the right direction, some water protectors have little trust in the government to follow through.
“If we don’t stand up not only for tribal nations but for all Americans we’re looking down some deep dark times here,” Iron Eyes said. “We don’t know what’s ahead of us when Trump takes office.”
With president-elect Donald Trump’s support in DAPL’s completion, there is still a high likelihood he could overturn the Corps’s decision and give easement to Energy Transfer anyway. His transition team claims the project would “benefit all Americans” and the country’s energy infrastructure, but there are also major conflicts of interest. Trump owns stock in Energy Transfer, and his pick for Secretary of Energy, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, is on the board of the directors for the company. His pick for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, is a CEO for ExxonMobil with zero experience in politics.
It makes absolutely no sense for Trump to claim that he will “drain the swamp” of corrupt politicians and ban lobbyists when he’s appointing those same people for his cabinet. It is even worse to claim DAPL will “benefit all Americans” when Native Americans’ sovereignty and human rights are being violated. Campers don’t even have access to resources like food, water and shelter as the roadblock to Oceti Oyate is still up, forcing the water protectors to be self-sufficient in the case emergency vehicles can’t get to the camp.
The oil industry is a very broken part of America’s energy infrastructure which needs stricter regulations that will be enforced so news about oil leaks won’t occur every month or so, or better yet, do away with oil in favor of energy resources that are renewable and safer to obtain.
“We have the critical mass to compel our people to change,” Iron Eyes continued in the interview. The fight is far from over and won’t stop until DAPL is gone and Native American rights are properly respected. Profit can never be prioritized over American health and safety.
Keep up the momentum and join our cause. Send an email directly to President Obama to stay strong in support for Standing Rock.