A cousin who lives in North Dakota sent me a bunch of information on the Dakota Access Pipeline and asked me if I would blog on it. I’ve previously said I deplore the violence of the protests and that I don’t really get what they’re so exercised about, but I haven’t really looked deeply into it until now.
Living in Alaska, I know a lot more about pipelines than the average American. I know they can be done safely and I recognize that pipeline transportation of both oil and natural gas is much safer than truck or tankcar transportation. So you sort of know what side I would be on if asked.
The Dakota Access Pipeline’s route is 99% on private land, so the federal government really couldn’t say much about it, except for in the immediate area where the pipeline crosses navigable waterways.
Dakota Access Services is the company behind this $3.7 billion project that would move almost 500,000 barrels of oil daily from the Bakken oil field in North Dakot to an Illinois refinery. The company jumped through all the appropriate US Army Corps of Engineers hoops to be permitted to construct the pipeline under a damned portion of the Missouri River about a half mile north of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.
That permit conferred a property right to DAS. The Standing Rock Sioux challenged the permit in court. The Department of Justice argued that the Corps had acted legally in conferring a permit to the company and in September, the government won a major component of the case when a federal district court judge refused to halt pipeline construction.
Up through winning in court last September, the government’s conduct was unobjectionable. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers followed all required procedures in issuing the permit, and the Justice Department successfully defended the Army Corps actions in court. As a result, the company could proceed with construction of the pipeline.
Then the Obama administration did something very common for the Obama administration. Only minutes after the district court announced that construction could proceed, the Department of Justice, Department of the Army, and Department of the Interior issued a joint statement announcing that the federal agencies will halt any additional permitting and reconsider its past permits of the project.
To capital-intensive infrastructure projects like the DAP, time is money. The construction company went to great lengths to comply with all applicable federal statutues so it could gain authorization to build on the 1% of the pipeline subject to federal jurisdiction. The product of all that labor was a permit or property right. A court ruled that the company had a right to build. Then the President — acting like a dictator — simply overturned the court’s order. The administration is now stalling while the construction company losses money each and every day that the construction is delayed.
I don’t believe President Obama, despite what he is claiming, is acting out of genuine concern for relations between the federal government and Native Americans. If that were even on his radar, he would have prevented the EPA from closing down the Navajo Nation’s coal-fired power plants, which cost them increased electrical costs and job losses.
Obama unilaterally overturned a court order in order to appease the green special interests that helped him get elected and who are cynically leveraging the Dakota Access Pipeline affair to pursue their own narrow interests.
Just think about this a moment. Why is Earth Justice, an environmental special interester group litigating a statute that deals with preserving Native American history when the pipeline doesn’t run on reservation land?
As Alaskans know well, green organizations will use any means available to achieve their goal of keeping oil in the ground. Their support for the Standing Rock Sioux is a sham pretense for their real purpose: misusing the law to advance their climate agenda.
What I found interesting is that not all Standing Rock Sioux oppose the pipeline. CNN reported the following in early November:
[Robert Fool Bear Sr., district chairman of Cannon Ball] has had it with the protesters. He says that more than two years ago, when members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe could have attended hearings to make their concerns known, they didn’t care. Now, suddenly, the crowds are out of control, and he fears it’s just a matter of time before someone gets seriously hurt.
This is so familiar to me as an Alaska because Arctic Village was similarly manipulated by green organizations opposed to development of ANWR.
The central legal issue is whether the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers fulfilled its responsibility under the National Historic Preservation Act to consult with tribes “that attach religious or cultural significance to property” affected by the Army Corps’s permitting decisions. In line with Robert Fool Bear Sr.’s comments above, the record clearly demonstrates that the Army Corps’s good faith efforts at consultation were ignored by the Standing Rock Sioux. The Corps sent files on the planned pipeline route to the Standing Rock Sioux for review back in September 2014 and received no response. On October 2, 2014, the Standing Sioux Rock backed out of the first scheduled meeting with the Corps on the project. The Corps rescheduled the meeting for November 6, 2014, but tribal officials were a no-show. On December 19, 2014, the Corps again reached out to the Standing Rock Sioux to schedule a meeting without receiving a response.
The Standing Rock Sioux refused to cooperate with the federal government for two years, despite the best efforts of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.According to Greenwire, the Standing Rock Sioux were also invited to three public hearings held by North Dakota state regulators. The tribe was a no-show at each one.
Yeah! The Standing Rock Sioux refused to cooperate with the federal government for two years and only got involved to any serious extent at the very end of the process, when they abruptly demanded that the Army Corps of Engineers review possible impact of the whole pipeline. Remember, that is impossible because the federal government only has jurisdiction over 1% of the pipeline, where it goes under the Missouri River.
“More than two years ago, when members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe could have attended hearings to make their concerns known, they didn’t care.” Robert Food Bear, Sr.
Despite the tribe’s refusal to act in good faith, both the company and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers went to great lengths to accommodate the tribe’s interests. The company devised a route to account for and avoid sites that had been identified as potentially eligible for or listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The company bought rights to a 400-foot corridor along the preliminary route to conduct cultural surveys by professionally licensed archeologists, who inventoried, delineated, & assessed historic sites. Having identified 91 stone features of religious significance to Native Americans, the company then rerouted the pipeline around all of them.
Ultimately, the company surveyed twice as many miles as the 357 miles planned for the pipeline and the route was modified more than 140 times in the process. And, where the pipeline crosses the Missouri, which is the whole focus of this fight, it is 100% adjacent to an existing natural gas pipeline.
So, I still don’t see what the fuss it about. Do we as a nation just like to be dependent upon the Saudis for our oil?