Standing Rock Sioux Have Every Right to Worry About their Water

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Sign at the Water Protectors Camp near Cannon Ball, ND

People living on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation have something in common with people living in Bismarck, North Dakota’s Capital City: None of them apparently want a crude oil pipeline running near their water source.

As noted in the Bismarck Tribune: “An early proposal for the Dakota Access Pipeline called for the project to cross the Missouri River north of Bismarck, but one reason that route was rejected was its potential threat to Bismarck’s water supply…” So if it is too dangerous for the Capital City, why would it be any safer, or more acceptable, near the Standing Rock Reservation?

Then of course there is the history of an increasing number of oil pipeline spills.

For instance, the Yellowstone River has suffered contamination from two pipeline spills in a four-year period. According to a 2015 PBS story:

A ruptured oil pipeline leaked up to 40,000 gallons of crude into the Yellowstone River in Montana last Saturday [Jan. 17, 2015], contaminating the drinking water for the nearby town of Glendive.

Saturday’s spill adds to a history of pipeline malfunctions—in 2011, the Exxon Silvertip Pipeline spilled 63,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River two and a half hours outside of Yellowstone National Park.

A 2013 Reuters story summarizes a number of recent spills, including a 20,600-barrel spill of crude oil in North Dakota from a pipeline operated by Tesoro Logisitics LLP. Earlier that year, Exxon Mobil’s Mayflower pipeline broke in Arkansas, spilling 5,000-7,000 barrels of Canadian crude into a suburban neighborhood.

In 2010, a break in Enbridge’s Line 6B pipeline in Michigan resulted in the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history, according to Wikipedia. It dumped more than 1 million gallons of heavy crude into Talmadge Creek, which flows into the Kalamzaoo River. Cleanup costs exceeded more than half a billion dollars.

According to a 2015 Boston Globe story, pipeline spills have grown with domestic oil production:

Since 2009, the annual number of significant accidents on oil and petroleum pipelines has shot up by almost 60 percent, roughly matching the rise in US crude oil production, according to an analysis of federal data by the Associated Press.

Nearly two-thirds of the leaks during that time have been linked to corrosion or failures of material, welding, or equipment failures, which are often associated with older pipelines, but can occur in newer ones, too

And its not just Native peoples who are deeply worried about the Dakota Access Pipeline. According to the website Common Dreams, farmers in Iowa who find themselves along the pipeline’s proposed path also are working to stop it. The site said:

For two years, activists in Iowa have been demonstrating against the highly-controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, which would carry as much as 570,000 barrels per day of Bakken crude from North Dakota to a transfer station in Illinois. All along the 1,172-mile route, resistance to the project has grown fierce as landowners, Indigenous people, farmers, and environmentalists have banded together in opposition.

Recent news reports out of the Quad Cities in Iowa say that 40 people were arrested there during a public demonstration against the pipeline.

But Standing Rock has a unique position from which to oppose this project. It is a sovereign nation. We need to remember that this country — through forced treaties and broken treaties — isolated Native nations onto the poorest, least productive lands possible. Now in the case of Standing Rock, the pipeline company and regulators are making things even worse, forcing Standing Rock to take the risk of polluted drinking water that other cities with more clout find unacceptable. It is another act of domination.

The Standing Rock Nation has every right to be concerned about this project and its voice needs to be at the table.

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