Dakota Pipeline Protests

By Ian Teñido

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Talk of the contemporary environmental issues and the Dakota Access Pipeline protests cannot miss in the list. 1,172 mile conduit was slated to ferry crude oil from North Dakota to Southern Illinois once completed. The pipeline construction was approved in July this year; after which outrage sparked and residents mainly by Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota spiraled and reached boiling points where violence by both the residents and police was reported as an attempt to calm the protests was launched. The protests even escalated after a ruling by the U.S District Judge James Boasberg in Washington when he rejected the request by Native Americans requiring the court to block the project. In his ruling, the judge dismissed the plea by the Native Americans sighting inadequate grounds to warrant blocking of the approved pipeline construction.

In a quick response to calm the escalating protests to the ruling, the Obama administration stepped in on September 9th to halt any further development of the project, appealing for calm and asked the company to suspend the work. There have been mixed reactions to the move by the federal government with those aligned to the community demands praising the move, and investors into the project calling it unnecessary and unwarranted and thus no intervention was necessary. The investors view the blocking of the project as political while the residents of North Dakota view the government move as sustainable.

To this end, it can be posited that environmental issues are of great importance to everyone and the dogmatic approach to development cannot succeed in today’s society. This case has highlighted the need for serious discussions on whether there should be a nationwide reform in as far as considering the tribes’ views on mega infrastructure projects is concerned. By the month of September, the opposition to the project had drawn close to 200 Native American tribes in addition to celebrities and activists.

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In particular, the Standing Rock Sioux, whose lands are just half a mile south of the proposed project, have stipulated that the project would desecrate sacred burial and prayer sites and would also leak the oil into the Missouri and Cannon Ball rivers, from which the tribe relies entirely, for water. Dwelling on this example as the cause for the protests, it can clearly be established that the project did not conduct an in-depth ‘Environmental Impact Analysis’ and thus assumed, greatly, the consequences that the project would have on both the social and environmental components of sustainable development.

To clearly understand how the project blatantly disrespected the rule of “sustainable development” we need to break the three components and discuss them differently. To start with, the project would have been a great breakthrough in as far as economic reality and efficiency is concerned. The pipeline would have made transportation of crude oil from North Dakota to Southern Illinois cheap, less risky and therefore increase the profits for the company or even made gas cheaper at the pumps. However, socially, the project would have disturbed the cultural peace of numerous sites both during the construction of the pipeline and during its operational years through oil leaks.

Environmentally speaking, lots and lots of vegetation, trees, and cultural sites would have been cleared and this would lead to soil erosion, deforestation and tons of soil around the pipeline would have been rendered useless. The environmental health would have grown worst yet these are just but a few examples of the many impacts. To this end therefore, I believe that the blocking of the project by Obama administration is the right move and will preserve life a few more years for the coming generations.



Kolpack, D. & Macpherson, J. (2016). Federal Government Halts Work on Part of Pipeline Project. ABC News. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/key-ruling-dakota-access-pipeline-due-end-friday-41967632 on September 11, 2016.

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