Native American tribes and others from all over the country have joined the Standing Rock Sioux to protest the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline [DAPL]. The proposed pipeline would cross 4 states carrying natural gas extracted via horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing [aka fracking] from North Dakota Bakken Oil Fields to Illinois. The complaints focus on the traditional values of our rivers, which we shouldn’t belittle. Our rivers provide sustenance (fish and medicinal plants), clean water to drink, and a spiritual and cultural refuge.
The specific concerns about this 1,172-mile pipeline begin with DAPL’s construction methods that would violate Sioux treaty agreements and desecrate their sacred areas. Once constructed, any leakage from the 30”diameter pipe (just under 3 feet of soil mostly) would threaten contamination within a large 4-state swath of the Missouri River Basin. Ruptures or spills could contaminate agricultural areas, roads, rivers, lakes and streams. In arid areas damage to groundwater resources would be devastating.
The Native Tribes protesting at Standing Rock are getting the most media attention on this issue – especially those on horseback. Yet they certainly aren’t the only ones who would be affected by a DALP environmental catastrophe. The global issue is that there will eventually be greenhouse gas emissions from this oil, increasing everyone’s vulnerability to global impacts of climate change – floods, droughts, increased severe weather events, and sea level rise.
The local issue is that the Dakota Access pipeline will would carry 570,000 barrels of oil per day across 50 counties of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois. It will cross under two tributaries to the Mississippi River: The Des Moines River and the Missouri River.
Too frequently there are pipeline spills. The Riverkeepers website addresses the risks of transporting crude oil with an annotated list of recent crude oil pipeline ruptures and spills.
RECENT NOTABLE CRUDE OIL PIPELINE ruptures and spills
April 2016 – Freeman SD
A spill of 16,800 gallons of tar sand oil
May 2015 – Santa Barbara CA
143,000 galloons of crude oil released, and 21,000 spilled into Pacific Ocean
Jan 2015 – Yellowstone River MT
Drinking water contaminated by 31,000 gals of oil spilled into frozen river
Dec 2014 – Belton SC
Over 300,000 gallons of gasoline spilled
Oct. 2014 – Caddo Parisih LA
Pipeline killed wildlife as it spilled over 4,000 barrels of crude
Oct. 2013 – Smithville T
Pipeline spilled 17,000 gallons of crude oil
Sept. 2013 – Tioga, ND
Over 20,000 barrels crude oil leaked into a wheat field
Mar. 2013 – Mayflower ARK
Rupture of 100’s of 1000’s of gallons of heavy crude into neighborhoods
Jul. 2010 – Kalamazoo River MI
Rupture oiled 40 miles of river with heavy crude bitumin
If an accident like any of the above were to occur along the DAPL, it could affect the Missouri River or any of its tributaries along the route. These streams provide a resource upon which 18 million people depend upon for clean drinking water. A spill could also impact crops, prairie habitat and residential communities.
The fracking that produces the crude oil to be carried by DAPL releases less greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than burning coal – however, the use of natural gas puts much more CO2 into our atmosphere than other new sustainable energy sources. NWNL urges the implementation of renewable, sustainable green energy like solar panels, wind powered turbines, and wave energy.
Solving the negative impacts of this oil pipeline at this late date is problematic. It is unfortunate that in this century business and governmental decisions are too often made without enough honest and transparent risk analysis. We should listen more to the Native Americans protesting this pipeline who come from a heritage of analyzing impacts seven generations in the future before committing to risky ventures.
A ruling on the Sioux’s lawsuit with the Army Core of Engineers is expected to come out today. NWNL hopes it will be one small step in resolving the ongoing controversy over big oil and environmental conservation.