Despite the millions of voices worldwide speaking out against the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL), parent company Energy Transfer remains unmoved.
CEO Kelcy Warren assured his employees that they thoroughly spoke with the Standing Rock Sioux, and that DAPL wouldn’t threaten the Missouri River. However, a recent pipeline leak in Pennsylvania by Sunoco Logistics, the future operator of the DAPL, coupled with the continuing protests, astonishing arrests and abuses in North Dakota suggest otherwise.
On Oct. 20th, heavy rainfall led to the Sunoco pipeline bursting, leaking 55,000 gallons of gasoline into Wallis Run which connects to the Susquehanna River. Although the pipeline was shut down, the continuing rainfall and flash flooding made it hard to immediately assess the damage, with residents being warned against using water from the river. With the water now receded, no serious problems arose except an odor, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found the Susquehanna River safe for drinking again.
Not only does the Susquehanna River provide drinking water to 6 million people along the Chesapeake Bay but it is also listed by American Rivers as the third most endangered river in the US due to fracking from the natural gas industry. This leak brings to question Sunoco’s pipeline management, as their pipelines spill frequently — with more than 200 recorded leaks since 2010.
The same is expected to happen to the Standing Rock Sioux with DAPL, and potentially at a worse scale, since Sunoco Logistics, the future operator, has proven to be severely incompetent.
Human Rights Abuses
After the 127 arrests from Oct. 22nd and 23rd, the Department of Justice (DOJ) was called upon by Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault to investigate the pipeline developments and the excessive force used by law enforcement. Until the DOJ addresses the issues raised by the Standing Rock Sioux, no final permits will be issued to Energy Transfer for construction bordering or under Lake Oahe. Once again, they requested the company to voluntarily halt construction.
Last week another 141 protesters were arrested — making the arrest count more than 400 since the protests began. The arrestees were placed in temporary holding cells, which many are calling dog kennels, and had numbers written on their skin in black marker.
The use of these cages was upheld by the Morton County Sheriff’s Department for the mass arrests, seeing as Morton County Correctional Center only has room for 42 inmates at a time.
Morton officials also assured that the protesters had access to the bathroom, food and water, but firsthand accounts say that they had to wait for basic necessities and medical attention. One example is Johanna Holy Elk Face, a 63 year old diabetic woman who had high blood sugar at the time, which would have potentially led to a seizure had her treatment been delayed any longer while she was in custody.
Because of these mass arrests, a UN permanent forum on indigenous rights is investigating these human rights abuses.
This past Tuesday, President Barack Obama announced that the Army Corps of Engineers would look into rerouting DAPL around sacred native land. In an interview with NowThis, he said the government will “let it play out for several more weeks and determine whether or not this can be resolved in a way that I think is properly attentive to the traditions of the first Americans.”
It’s finally a step in the right direction after months worth of pleas from protesters to halt construction, however, they can’t afford to be left waiting for federal action when the human rights and federal law violations are far too obvious and constant to ignore or wait to see what the other side has to say. There is no doubt that the police are overstepping their power, and Energy Transfer is guilty of neglecting environmental protection, tribal sovereignty and historical preservation.
The day after Obama’s interview, law enforcement clashed with protesters as they tried crossing Cantapeta Creek to Cannonball Ranch and faced pepper spray while wading through the water. This came after Energy Transfer found Native American artifacts along the route of DAPL last month and failed to report it to state regulators within 10 days.
While the company moved the route away from the artifacts, the lack of a report will likely get them fined up to $200,000. This also violates Executive Order 13007 on Protection of Sacred Sites where “each executive branch agency shall avoid adversely affecting the physical integrity of such sites.”
Between the federal law violations and human rights abuses which appear to be increasing every day, federal action cannot be delayed any further, especially with Obama’s presidency coming so close to an end. He has good intentions to hope for a peaceful solution, but it won’t come any sooner if action is postponed, especially given how excessively violent North Dakota law enforcement has become within the past few weeks.
There is no good to come from DAPL, and Energy Transfer and North Dakota law enforcement have broken far too many laws to just let it slide under the rug anymore. The protesters need immediate backing from federal action if their water and livelihood has any chance to live in peace.