DAPL, Standing Rock are Becoming National Metaphor and Model

p1010103Standing Rock is becoming a national model for opposing oil pipelines. Read a story about a oil pipeline controversy in other parts of the country and it will reference DAPL or Standing Rock.

For example, here is a Jan. 4 story from Folio Weekly, a Florida-based magazine, with the headline: Florida’s Own STANDING ROCK. It concerns the Sabal Trail Transmission, a gas pipeline that crosses Alabama, Georgia and Florida. According to the story:

The $3.2 billion project crosses 13 counties in Florida and more than 700 bodies of water, including the Withlacoochee, Suwannee, and Santa Fe rivers. The EPA approved the project despite its concerns about the pipeline’s path through 177 acres of conservation areas, including the Green Swamp and Rainbow Springs in Florida. …

Similar to Standing Rock, people in Florida worry about the potential leaks and their impact on drinking water. Pipeline opponents have adopted the Standing Rock term “water protectors” and created a Water Is Life Camp near the Santa Fe River.

Wisconsin’s Chippewa Tribe also is fighting a pipeline battle, according to a Jan. 6 MPR story:

The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa’s tribal council voted Wednesday to refuse to renew several easement rights of way for Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline that expired in 2013….

The Bad River Band’s decision comes amid an ongoing protest over the Dakota Access Pipeline in which the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribes have argued the project threatens drinking water and tribal cultural sites.

Click on the story for details.

More updates on DAPL and environmental justice issues follow.

DAPL Battling $15,000 Fine

The North Dakota Public Service Commission is pursing a $15,000 fine against Energy Transfer Partners for failing to follow rules meant to preserve Native American artifacts, according to a story in the CBC.

Staffers with the North Dakota Public Service Commission say there’s no doubt the developer of the four-state Dakota Access oil pipeline violated rules regarding reporting Native American artifacts. …

The Public Service Commission maintains that Energy Transfer Partners subsidiary Dakota Access LLC failed to get its approval before proceeding with construction in October on private land in southern North Dakota after the artifacts were found along the route.

The company is disputing the fine, saying it was not a “willful violation” and that artifacts were not disturbed.

Two quick points: First, for a $3.8 billion project, $15,000 is something like a parking ticket. It is not much of a deterrent.

Second, this fine appears unrelated to a provocative September incident when Dakota Access LLC dug in areas suspected of having artifacts and significant cultural sites. According to a Sept. 7 report in the online publication Inside Climate News:

Opponents of the oil pipeline say they believe the company deliberately sought to destroy the artifacts, which are located along a two-mile stretch west of Lake Oahe. Dakota Access … began bulldozing that area on Saturday—less than 24 hours after the tribe filed a court document detailing the 27 graves, 16 stone rings, 19 effigies and other artifacts found there. By Sunday, all of those sites had been destroyed or harmed, according to court filings.

The digging provoked a clash between water protectors and police.

The October incident that sparked the $15,000 fine appears to be a separate episode, thought to be honest I am not clear on whether the two are related.

Oil Company Fined for Air Quality Violations Mostly Affecting Fort Berthold Reservation

Meanwhile, in  western North Dakota, a gas company faces a much larger fine. Slawson Exploration Co. has agreed to pay a $2.1 million fine for the excessive air pollution it has released from 170 oil and gas wells in the state, according to a Dec. 1 story in the Bismarck Tribune. Importantly, the story notes that the wells in question are primarily on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. Again, it seems Native Americans are bearing a disproportionate environmental burden for North Dakota’s fossil fuel industry.

DAPL Fact Sheet

Here is a “Dakota Access Pipeline Fight – By the Numbers,” a Fact Sheet developed by Inside Climate News. It provides an easy to digest summary of some of the key DAPL issues.

Klobuchar on DAPL

I wrote U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar a letter last year expressing my opposition to DAPL. I have concerns about the response I just received. It seemed cautious to me, but the Senator avoids taking a position. Here it is, in full:

January 5, 2017

Dear Mr. Russell:

Thank you for contacting me about the Dakota Access Pipeline and the impact that the pipeline has on the Standing Rock Sioux. I appreciate hearing your thoughts on this important issue.

On December 4, 2016, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will conduct an Environmental Impact Statement examining alternate routes for the Dakota Access Pipeline, with opportunities for full public input and analysis. This decision followed months of intensive review and consultations between the Army Corps of Engineers, tribal leaders, and other stakeholders in the project. Following the announcement, Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II asked that protestors camped near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation return home.

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me. I continue to be humbled to be your Senator, and one of the most important parts of my job is listening to the people of Minnesota.  I am here in our nation’s capital to do the public’s business. I hope you will contact me again about matters of concern to you.


Amy Klobuchar
United States Senator

This Day in History 1868: Report to President Admits “Injustice” to Indians

On this day in history, January 7, 1868, the Indian Peace Commission issued its report to President Andrew Johnson. The Commission was charged with 1) removing the causes of war with the Indians, 2) securing frontier settlements and railroads, and 3) inaugurating some plan “for the civilization of the Indians.” (One of the commissioners was Gen. William T. Sherman.)

It’s a long report, and a number of stunning passages leap off the page. This one indicates an ongoing debate at the time over Native American genocide:

If it be said that the savages are unreasonable, we answer, that if civilized they might be reasonable. … If it be said that because they are savages they should be exterminated, we answer that, aside from the humanity of the suggestion, it will prove exceedingly difficult, and if money considerations are permitted to weigh, it costs less to civilize than to kill.

This passage openly concedes unjust treatment of Native peoples and efforts to take their land:

Among civilized men war usually springs from a sense of injustice. The best possible way then to avoid war is to do no act of injustice. When we learn that the same rule holds good with Indians, the chief difficulty is removed. But it is said our wars with them have been almost constant. Have we been uniformly unjust? We answer unhesitatingly yes. … when the progress of settlement reaches the Indian’s home, the only question considered is, “how best to get his lands.”

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