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Dakota Access Pipeline and Its Impact on the Environment

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Money talks. This phrase is more prevailing in the current world economy than it ever has been. It was only a matter of time before an innocent human life got a valuation placed on it and in 2017 some Americans did just that. The Dakota Access Pipeline, DAPL for short, is an oil line that runs from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota, underground, to an oil terminal in Illinois. This pipeline sparked lots of fights and controversy because a section of the pipe was very close to a drinking source and it also crossed over sacred native American acreage which was promised to the native people in the Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868). The construction of the pipeline was put on hold for a short time to try and limit the damage of any spills. Is the possibility of some jobs and a small boost to the economy worth the potential death of millions? Most definitely not but the life of some native Lakota Sioux Americans has been threatened all for monetary gain.

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The main controversy over this pipeline started when the plans for the construction of this pipeline had the pipeline crossing the Missouri River north of the city of Bismarck. The US army core of engineers rejected this route stating that any leaks could contaminate the cities water supply. The resulting changes were to reroute it south of the cities water supply. This change meant that the pipe was only half a mile north of the Standing Rock Reservation, the Lakota lands from the treaty. This new route was rejected by the native tribes of the reservation for the exact same reason the army core did not want it. This was not the only reason why the tribe rejected it. The new land that the pipe would cross is the old native lands that were taken from them in acts of war. This land was sacred and contained burial grounds of the natives. The construction of the pipe would destroy these sites. The only issue with this is that the territory was taken from them and therefore belongs to the army core. This land is still claimed by the Sioux and when the first Fort Laramie Treaty was created in 1851 the Sioux tribe had this property promised to them and it was the Americans that broke the treaty to take this land from them for monetary gain. In 1980 the supreme court in America ruled that the taking of this land was illegal and offered the Sioux 105 Million dollars in compensation. This was rejected by the tribe stating that the land was never for sale and never will be. This shows that the land is rightfully Lakota Sioux land and that the Americans have not given it back is another sign that the US will not help the people whose life they needlessly destroyed.

The oil industry has a horrible record when it comes to spills in America alone there has been 17 pipeline accidents from the year 2000 till 2019. The problem with the oil industry is that the safety regulations are all created by the companies from the industry. One of the contributors to the project was a company called Sunco Logistics. Sunco had the largest number of spills from 2010 to 2016 which was 203, which is more than two times the industry average. Letting a company with the largest number of accidents have a large share is not going to make the tribe feel safe. Since the construction of the pipe there have been several spills and it is reported that in 2017 alone, the year of the final construction, there was at least 5 different spills. These spills have not lost a lot of oil, with the largest only being 168 gallons. The Energy Transfer Crude Oil pipeline, which is connected to the Dakota Access Pipeline, had a large leak in 2017 with almost 5000 gallons of oil lost to the surrounding area. This leak was not reported to the environmental regulators as the accident was considered contained by the industry, but it only seems a matter of time before a larger stream of oil hits the water affecting the Lakota Sioux tribe.

There were many protests in the lead up to the construction of the Bakken system. The native Lakota tribe and all their allies joined to protest the decision of the army core. The protest camp, which was set up on the army core territory, was ordered to be shut down by the government forces. The protesters became confrontational when a construction company started destroying the sacred lands. These protesters crossed the perimeter fences and stood in the way of the bulldozers. A private security company hired by the Dakota Access Pipeline retaliated by attacking the protesters with dogs and pepper spray. A reporter, Amy Goodman, filmed a video of her asking the dog handlers if they were ordering the animals to attack protesters. The video showed dogs with blood in their mouths. This video sent shocks out to the world. Thousands of people from all over came to stand behind the Sioux Tribe and for the first time in history all the native American tribes joined under one cause. The response from the local authorities was daunting. The governor activated the national guard to support the local police. These forces were fully kited out in riot gear, non-lethal grenades, armoured personnel vehicles and weapons that could fire rubber bullets as well as lethal rounds. In January 2017 two surface to air missile launchers were also called upon. During this time mass arrests were made, and reports started coming in of natives being marked on their arm with numbers and detained in “dog cages”. The police tried to justify their actions stating that the numbers were used to help keep track of personal property when these detained natives were released(Derek Hawkins, 2017). The United Nations were quick to respond which agreed that some of the detainees were facing “inhuman conditions”. That the right to protest peacefully should not be met with a military force firing rubber bullets and concussion grenades towards them(Maina Kiai, 2016). An environmental journalist, Erin Schrode, was shit with a rubber bullet while peacefully interviewing a man about the protests. The shot was caught on camera and later uploaded to Facebook(Haltiwanger, 2016).

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