Tag Archives: Environmental Protection Agency

Future DAPL Operator’s Pennsylvania Pipeline Leaked

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.

Environmental Danger

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.

Federal Inaction

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.

Dakota Access Approved: Resistance Unfolds

With blatant disregard for tribal and environmental health, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved the majority of permits for the Dakota Access Pipeline — a project that will transport crude oil through several states and over 200 separate water crossings.

The Corps announced approval of nearly all of the project’s necessary permits last week, despite ongoing vocal and legal opposition from landowners, activists, and tribes of the Dakotas. Requests by the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Interior and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation for a full environmental review prior to the permits’ approval were similarly ignored.

Undeterred by months of collective outrage, construction on the project has already begun. Energy Transfer’s spokesperson stated that their goal is to have the pipeline in operation by the end of this year.

For the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the pipeline is more than just another show of federal dismissal to tribal sovereignty, but a looming threat to the community’s water supply and their entire way of life. The disheartening news of approval for Dakota Access, however, has not stalled tribal activism against it.

By carrying crude oil through native territory, under the Missouri River, and across waterways significant to tribal peoples, the Dakota Access Pipeline is a high stakes gamble for the lives the Standing Rock Sioux. The simple fact of the matter is that fracking oil and then transporting massive distances is not safe and it threatens wildlife and human water sources. Between 2006 and 2014, there were 8,690 reported incidents of oil and brine spills in North Dakota’s oil industry; the completion of Dakota Access will surely increase this number to record-high levels.

On Wednesday, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed a lawsuit against the Army Corps through Earthjustice in Washington D.C. The complaint cites a violation of National Historic Preservation Act, as well the Corps’ dismissal of tribal input and culturally significant sites when permitting the project.  

“We have laws that require federal agencies to consider environmental risks and protection of Indian historic and sacred sites,” said Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. “But the Army Corps has ignored all those laws and fast-tracked this massive project just to meet the pipeline’s aggressive construction schedule.”

Proposed by the Texas-based company Energy Transfer, Dakota Access is slated to cost 3.4 billion dollars and stretch 1,164 miles across North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois. Also called the Bakken pipeline, it will carry 450,000 barrels of fracked oil from the Bakken Shale Formation in North Dakota to Illinois, where it will then be transported to Gulf Coast refineries.

Prioritization of Big Oil over Native American lives is troubling, but it’s not new.  “The Corps has a long history of going against the wishes and health of tribal nations” said the Indigenous Environmental Network.

Projected to be built in close proximity to the Standing Rock reservation’s northern border, the pipeline threatens contamination of the Missouri River. Because of this, the tribe launched a campaign called “Rezpect Our Water” several months ago, which has since gained international visibility and celebrity endorsements. The grassroots initiative involved tribal leaders and youth to raise awareness about the potential ramifications of the pipeline.

The ignorance of the Army Corps to the necessary legal and ethical parameters is systemic within federal attitudes toward native lands. It is simply unacceptable that a whole tribe’s way of life be put at risk for the sake of large energy revenues.

What’s worse is that the tax revenues being offered to other counties along the pipeline’s path will not be offered to Sioux County. Meaning, for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, their land will be put at risk while they will see no financial benefit from it.

The fight, as activists and indigenous communities have voiced, is far from over: “this decision,” said the Indigenous Environmental Network, “will not deter resistance against the dirty Bakken pipeline”.

Less than a week following the permits’ approval, there are already reports of vigilante resistance. Around 6am yesterday morning, Iowa news outlets began reporting fires on three separate construction sites along the Dakota Access route in the center of the state.

Jasper County Sheriff John Halferty noted that the fires seemed to be intentionally set along the pipeline, targeting the equipment, and caused a million dollars in damage to the machinery. There are no suspects thus far in the ongoing investigation.

This morning, protesters are gathered in Bismarck, North Dakota, on the grounds of Capitol to demand that legislators put a stop to the pipeline’s construction.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers refused to acknowledge the push-back of native interest groups, their allies, and environmental agencies when beginning construction; in doing so, they have opened up the door to new and increased forms of counteraction.

When Native Americans are totally discounted from major infrastructure decisions and their safety and ways of life are not prioritized, it shows the unethical framework in which development occurs in this country. Approving the Dakota Access pipeline is a dangerous and irresponsible move on behalf of the U.S. Army Corps. It reflects the devaluation of Native American lives and their ecological sovereignty, something that must perpetually be resisted.

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