A Tale of Two Rivers: One Threatened by a Pipeline Spill, the Other Protected with Personhood

The Missouri River faces environmental threats from possible breaks in the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Meanwhile, in Aotearoa (the Maori term for New Zealand) the Whanganui River, the country’s largest river, now has the legal protection of personhood status. It requires review of development projects keeping the river’s best interests in mind.

DAPL’s potential threats to the Missouri River remain shrouded in secrets. The federal government has rejected a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request which sought more details. The government’s fear seems to be that someone with access to its analysis could use it to sabotage the pipeline. Yet by implication, it also means that the government acknowledges that if the pipeline fails on its own, significant environmental damage will happen.

Keep reading. Continue reading

Reflections on ‘Equal Justice Under the Law’ in North Dakota’s DAPL-Related Cases

Remember the security worker who posed as a water protector at the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protest, the guy with AR-15 assault rifle?

It turns out that Kyle Thompson, 30, was just arrested for domestic violence, carrying a concealed weapon, and possession of marijuana and methamphetamine paraphernalia, according to an article in the Bismarck Tribune. Thompson did three tours of duty in Afghanistan for the Army, and said he suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). His sister had been killed recently in a car accident.

He received what could be called a compassionate sentence. Being compassionate is a good thing. At the same time, it is fair to ask how Thompson’s case compares to some of those involving Native American water protectors and their allies.

Let’s take a closer look. Continue reading

White Community Silence in the Theft of Land, Oil from Native Peoples

People in power have a history of taking advantage of Native Americans to profit from their land and natural resources, including oil. It is not just the rich and powerful, however. In order for these things to happen, the majority community has to give its approval, even if it is just through its silence.

Today, large energy companies are pushing for crude oil pipeline projects that affect Native peoples, and do so without their consent. The pipelines cross sacred lands, sacred waters, and/or areas where Native peoples have reserved hunting and fishing rights. Two current examples are the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in North Dakota and Enbridge Line 3, a proposal to expand and reroute a tar sands oil pipeline through northern Minnesota.

Native American peoples are small in number and do not have a strong political voice. Standing up to large companies, powerful interests, and unsympathetic communities is an uphill battle, with an ugly history.

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DAPL Updates: Senators Press Corps of Engineers for Answers, Divestment Push Tops $5 Billion

Top democratic U.S. Senate leaders are pushing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for detailed information on the steps it took to approve the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), what plans it has to provide clean drinking water in case of a pipeline rupture, and what steps it took to honor the treaty and trust obligations the government has to the Standing Rock Nation.

Thanks to the Lakota People’s Law Project for posting this information.

Senators Tom Carper (D., Delaware), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works, and Maria Cantwell (D., Washington), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources, have sent an oversight letter to the Army Corps of Engineers demanding documentation about its rushed DAPL approval, including all communications and contact with the Trump transition team and administration.

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DAPL Operational, Keystone XL Moves Ahead, But Do We Really Need Them?

The 2013 Mayflower oil spill occurred on March 29, 2013 in Arkansas, releasing 134,000 gallons of crude oil. (Wikimedia Foundation)

Dakota Access LLC has reported that oil would start flowing through the pipeline this week, according an article in Slate.

The Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribe are challenging the pipeline in court, claiming the federal government violated environmental, historic-preservation, and religious-freedom laws in approving the project. The ruling is likely several weeks away, the article said.

Keystone XL also is moving forward, and will get federal approval today, according to a story in MPR:

The go-ahead for Keystone will mark a clear victory for oil industry advocates, who say the pipeline will create jobs and improve U.S. energy security. Both of those arguments are disputed by the pipeline’s opponents. They say new jobs will be minimal and short-lived, and argue the pipeline won’t help the U.S. with its energy needs because the oil is destined for export.

And Enbridge continues to pursue its Line 3 expansion through northern Minnesota, another pipeline carrying dirty Canadian tar sands oils.

These projects make little sense given the U.S.’s decline in crude oil imports and the fact that we are now a net exporter of refined gas products.

Do We Need All These Projects?

Here are a few oil-related facts you might find surprising.

  • Minnesota’s petroleum fuel consumption has been flat since 2010, and since its 2004 peak it is down 19 percent, according to data provided by the Sierra Club’s North Star Chapter. (On a national level, U.S. petroleum fuel consumption also is down since the mid-2000s, but not as much as in Minnesota, about 6 percent.)
  • From its peak in 2006, U.S. crude oil imports had dropped more than 20 percent by 2016. (See: Crude Oil Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.)
  • In early 2011, the United States became a net exporter of noncrude petroleum liquids and refined petroleum products, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

So why are we expanding crude oil pipelines?

Native Women Speak Up for Immigrants; ND Oil Production Down, So Why DAPL? and Native Nations Rise March on DC

News summary:

  • The group Indigenous Women Rise is making a strong statement in support of immigrants that the Trump administration is trying to keep out.
  • Once economically booming, the state of North Dakota is facing large revenue drops because of declining oil and agriculture revenue. It begs the question: If oil production is down, why build the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL)?
  • Today is the Native Nations Rise March in Washington D.C. What you can do.
  • U.N. Official: Trump administration retreating on Indian Rights

Keep reading for the details on these stories. Continue reading

U.S. State Department an Embarrassment at Tar Sands Meeting; Other News Updates

The U.S. State Department hosted a public meeting in Bemidji Tuesday to get public comments on a permit to increase the amount of tar sands oil piped through northern Minnesota. Instead of putting its best foot forward, the State Department offered a deadly mix of fear and indifference to Native voices and those from the environmental community.

Reflecting a state of fear and mistrust, the State Department used a security screening process that forced people to stand outside in the cold too long before they could get into the meeting. In a show of indifference, its public meeting process failed to effectively engage the public in conversation or include key federal decision makers.

I traveled with a busload of people from the Twin Cities to Bemidji for the meeting. Here is a link to a blog I wrote for the Sierra Club’s North Star Chapter: U.S. State Department Complete Embarrassment at Tar Sands Public Meeting. Continue reading