What the Left Didn’t Tell You About Standing Rock

This post was authored by We Are Capitalists


THE MISLEADING CLAIM: “Native Americans are again being screwed over by the U.S., as the Dakota Access Pipeline encroaches on ‘sacred land’ belonging to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, absent consent.”

THE REALITY: “Court documents, official land surveys, and pipeline maps, confirm this is almost entirely false.”

Let’s begin with the notion of “sacred land”. Extensive cultural & land surveys were conducted in North Dakota before the pipeline received approval. It marked some land as “sacred.” The pipeline plans were then redrafted as to avoid ALL “sacred” pieces of land. [a] This isn’t just conservative-media opinion, either, it’s confirmed in the U.S. District Court memorandum, stating:

“Where this surveying revealed …historic or cultural resources that might be affected, the company mostly chose to reroute. In North Dakota, for example, the cultural surveys found 149 potentially eligible sites, 91 of which had stone features (considered sacred). The pipeline workspace and route was modified to avoid ALL 91 of these stone features and all but 9 of the other potentially eligible sites. By the time the company finally settled on a construction path, …the pipeline route had been modified 140 times in North Dakota alone to avoid potential cultural resources. Plans had also been put in place to mitigate any effects on the other 9 sites through coordination with the North Dakota SHPO.” [b]

Those modifications convinced the U.S. District Court to rule against the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, citing the tribe’s inability to show how the pipeline would damage the group’s sacred ground. From the court document itself, it states, “if a party makes no showing of irreparable injury, the court may deny the motion… It follows, then, that the Court may deny a motion for preliminary injunction, without further inquiry, upon finding that a plaintiff is unable to show either irreparable injury” [b] “The Tribe has not met its burden to show that DAPL-related work is likely to cause damage.” [b]

In addition to providing no substantive evidence to support their case, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe was offered ample time to consult with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but refused, instead opting “to boycott the entire consulting process.” [a] This petulance was again confirmed by the court’s review, which showed that, as the Army Corps of Engineers attempted more than a dozen times between 2014 and 2016 to discuss the DAPL route with the Standing Rock, “the tribe either failed to respond to requests for consultation or dragged its feet during the process.” [c] It’s also noteworthy that the company building the pipeline – Energy Transfer Partners – had only originally moved the project near the Standing Rock reservation in the first place because doing so was considered “less impactful on the environment, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.” [d] So any assumption that the company hadn’t gone out of its way to seek consultation and alter its plans in consideration of the environment is absolutely false.

Now that we’ve established that the tribe failed to substantiate its complaints, let’s add this somewhat surprising revelation; THERE’S ALREADY AN EXISTING FUEL PIPELINE IN PLACE, UNDER THE SAME GROUND, WITH NO COMPLAINTS. This – again – was exposed in the court’s review and can be confirmed for yourself via utility pipeline maps. “The area around the permitted activity has been subject to previous surveying for other utility projects. DAPL likewise will run parallel, at a distance of 22 to 300 feet, to an ALREADY-EXISTING natural-gas pipeline under the lake. Dakota Access will also use the less-invasive HDD method to run the pipeline, which will require less disturbance to the land around the drilling and bury the pipeline at a depth that is unlikely to damage cultural resources. [b] One can see this for themselves by viewing side by side maps, one showing the existing pipelines, and the other showing the planned route for the new pipeline. They mirror each other. [f]

Lastly is the issue of land ownership and the presumption that the pipeline encroaches on North Dakotan land owned by indigenous tribes. Wrong again. The truth is, the Dakota Access Pipeline traverses a path on PRIVATE PROPERTY and does not cross into the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation. Literally 100% of affected landowners in North Dakota VOLUNTARILY signed contracts allowing for construction of the pipeline on their property. [g] They were offered a good deal and they took it. The Native American reservation is merely adjacent to affected property, it is not the ACTUAL affected property.

One might ask, “but what if neighboring the reservation still puts it in danger?” Here, too, research suggests otherwise. Per a 2015 Fraser Institute Research Report entitled “Safety in the Transportation of Oil and Gas,” transporting oil and gas by pipeline is actually the safest method. Matter of fact, fuel transported via rail is found to be “over 4.5 times more likely to experience an occurrence” than via pipeline. [e] Additionally, “over 70 percent of pipeline occurrences result in spills of ONLY 1 cubic meter, and only 17 percent of pipeline occurrences take place in the actual pipeline.” [e] Furthermore, the vast majority of spills actually occur inside facilities [e], meaning it’s VERY unlikely that anything substantial will leak from the new pipeline. And for those concerned about the pipeline’s proximity to their water supply, a modern, upgraded water facility, far away, was already built and is now operational. It was constructed via an approximately $30 million grant from the U.S. government. [h] The local water facility that MAY be affected has actually been slated to be decommissioned, so it’s mostly a moot point.

Essentially, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is complaining that private owners sold the rights to place a fuel pipeline on land that the Tribe does not own, in a way that mirrors existing pipelines, as to transport fuel in the safest and cheapest manner, with designs evolving from countless consultation efforts and professional advice on how to be as environmentally friendly as possible, while specifically redesigning the route an additional 140 times as to avoid offending the tribe, all while the tribe was largely boycotting the consultation efforts and failing to substantiate its complaints in court. What’s happening now, therefore, is nothing more than the political left latching onto the latest controversy as to perpetuate their endless narrative of victimhood.


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