by Madison Marko – Opinion Editor
Native Americans throughout the country have been protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline since its approval in late July. On Sept. 3, a peaceful protest was turned into a bloodbath when the pipeline’s security guards began violently attacking the demonstrators.
The Dakota Access Pipeline is a $3.7 billion pipeline that is being engineered by Energy Transfer Partners to carry approximately 470,000 to 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day. The pipeline is set to run through North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois. According to Energy Transfer Partners, the pipeline is anticipated to be functional by late 2016. The land it will slice through will include ancestral and sacred burial grounds of the Standing Rock Sioux, a long-standing Native American tribe in North Dakota.
Supporters of the pipeline are focused on the impact that the engineering feat could have on the economy. The Dakota Access Pipeline could potentially create up to 12,000 local jobs during its construction, and will rack in $50 million annually in property taxes, as well as $74 million in sales taxes. This money will positively impact many government-run projects and structures, like the states’ school systems and roads.
Although there is support behind the oil-bearing pipeline, many groups— environmental and tribal—are opposed to the pipeline. Both groups want to focus on transitioning to renewable energy sources, and agree that the project goes directly against this vision.
The Standing Sioux Tribe in particular claim to be affected by the pipeline, stating how it could damage their main water supply, Lake Oahe, as well as their sacred and ancestral burial grounds. The tribe has not stood by complacently as the pipeline’s construction has been underway—the tribe, as well as other protestors, have been fighting against the creation of the pipeline since its approval in late July.
The Standing Sioux Tribe filed a lawsuit in July against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. In the lawsuit, the Standing Sioux said that the pipeline, “threatens the Tribe’s environmental and economic well-being, and would damage and destroy sites of great historic, religious, and cultural significance to the Tribe.” They also requested that construction on the pipeline be stopped.
The tribe was denied by James E. Boasberg, a federal judge in Washington DC, who said that they had started their protesting too late in the game. On Sept. 12, the tribe sent in a motion for an appeal that has not yet been approved or rejected.
Along with the legal struggles, the Standing Sioux Tribe, along with many other tribes and activists, have been peacefully protesting the construction of the pipeline. On Sept. 3, protestors were attacked by dogs and pepper sprayed by Energy Transfer Partner mercenaries. Nearly a week later, on Sept. 9, the Obama administration ordered construction on the pipeline to stop near Lake Oahe.
Dave Archambault II, the chairman of the Standing Sioux Tribe, said, “The Tribe has stood up to combat the oppression and injustice they and Native Americans throughout our country have faced for generations, and the administration was right to recognize it.”
The Department of Justice, Army, and Interior have requested that Energy Transfer Partners stop construction near Lake Oahe until it is decided whether the construction violates the National Environmental Policy Act.