Over the past six months, voices from across the world have called out in protest and solidarity against the creation of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline, better known as DAPL. The pipeline, planned to be 1,100 miles long, will pass through four U.S states, spanning underground from North Dakota to Illinois, and would be responsible for transporting crude oil from domestic wells to American consumers. The controversial aspect of the pipeline, however, is that it is planned to pass through the Lakota Treaty Territory at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. This area includes Lake Oahe, which is the main water supply for the Standing Rock tribe, along with other native tribes in the surrounding area. Any leak in the pipeline, which is a probable risk, would be catastrophic to these tribes since it would poison their main water source. As of December 1, 2016, 92% of the pipeline had been completed (Valley News Live); however, the company behind the creation of the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, cannot finish DAPL’s construction because it was denied a permit to build underneath the Missouri River. Currently, ETP is planning a reroute of the pipeline due to its absence of a permit. If the company’s reroute is approved, it will be granted a permit, thus being able to complete the construction of the contentious pipeline.
The initial plan for the construction of the pipeline created by ETP violated a number of federal treaties. Of the Fort Laramie Treaty of April 29, 1868, DAPL violates Article 2. The treaty states that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has the rights to the “undisturbed use and occupation” of their “permanent homeland… the Standing Rock Indian Reservation” (U.S-Lak., 1868, Article 2). The creation of DAPL, however, would be a disruption to the tribe, violating their use of the Standing Rock Reservation since its creation is against the will of the Standing Rock peoples, as “attorneys for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe took their first legal action to block the pipeline to the courts” as soon as ETP announced that it had been granted a permit to construct through North Dakota” (Thorbecke). Additionally, DAPL would “endanger a source of fresh water for the Standing Rock Sioux and 8 million people living downstream” (The FANG Collective). This treaty ultimately gives the Sioux peoples ownership of the Standing Rock lands, and ETP is violating this ownership through its construction of DAPL underneath Lake Oahe. Furthermore, DAPL violates the Executive Order 12898 on Environmental Justice which states that any agency that proposes a project must determine if it negatively affects any Tribal or minority communities in the area (Exec. Order No. 12898 3 C.F.R 1, 1994). Because DAPL would have substandard effects on the Standing Rock Sioux and other indigenous minority groups, it violates this treaty. The pipeline initially was planned to cross the Missouri River north of Bismarck, Missouri, which houses approximately 67,000 people; however, the route was changed so that the pipeline would cross near the Standing Rock reservation because ETP wanted to “avoid populated areas” (The FANG Collective). ETP decided that it was more important to protect people in more populated areas, endangering the communities and lives of approximately 30,000 minorities instead. ETP also has refused to release information regarding an emergency plan to the Sioux tribes defining the potential situational circumstances if the pipeline leaked, violating yet another act—the Pipeline Safety and Clean Water Act. The UN Declaration on the Rights and Indigenous Peoples is also violated by the creation of DAPL because the declaration clearly states that indigenous peoples must give their free, prior, and informed consent before the start of any projects that may affect them (The United Nations General Assembly art. 5). The indigenous peoples of Standing Rock gave neither their free, prior, nor informed consent to ETP before they began the construction of DAPL. In addition, the National Environmental Policy Act, NEPA, states that in order for major actions to be carried out, companies need to release a detailed EPI, Environmental Impact Statement, regarding their course of action (National Environmental Policy Act, 1969). Although ETP has released an EPI, it is extremely brief, and is lacking in completion. ETP has not released a complete EPI because if a thorough EPI was divulged, the construction of DAPL would not be legal, and therefore would not be approved. DAPL furthermore violates Executive Order 13007 on Protection of Sacred Sites which states that “in managing federal lands, each executive branch agency shall avoid adversely affecting the physical integrity of… Indian sacred sites” (Exec. Order No. 13007 3 C.F.R 1, 1996). DAPL would have a negative impact on Standing Rock sacred locations because these sacred sites are “in the immediate vicinity of the Missouri River crossing” (Sacred Stone Camp). Protestors and inhabitants of Standing Rock are furthermore defending their arguments using the fifth amendment in the U.S Bill of Rights to further prevent ETP from crossing DAPL through indigenous lands, since the amendment states “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation” (U.S Const. am. 5.). Through the completion of DAPL, the Standing Rock property is forcibly being used by a major oil company without the consent of its inhabitants.
The DAPL project is being funded by many of the world’s leading banks and fossil-fuel companies. The main proponent of the pipeline is Energy Transfer Partners. ETP is a natural gas and propane company, and they own approximately 38% stake of the pipeline. Other energy companies involved in DAPL’s construction include Enbridge Partners, Phillips 66 Company, and Marathon Oil Company. Each of these companies is worth billions of dollars; however, to complete the project, they have secured $2.5 billion in bank loans (The FANG Collective). The three main banks that have given these companies loans for the project are Citigroup, TD Securities, and Mizuho Bank. Around the world, protestors of DAPL are boycotting against banks that are loaning money to the companies responsible for the creation of DAPL by withdrawing their money and leading protests against these banks. In fact, according to Yes Magazine, protesters have drawn nearly $30 million from banks that are financing DAPL; however, Wells Fargo and TD Bank have especially received a lot of backlash from protesters. Due to Wells Fargo’s involvement in the creation of DAPL, California is currently weighing legislation to separate from Wells Fargo completely in regards to pension funding (Paul). This legislation is aiming to defund DAPL by using a divestment strategy. Furthermore, even cities such as Seattle and Minneapolis are looking into ending municipal contracts with Wells Fargo completely (Paul).
The are many other pressing issues regarding the construction of the pipeline along with the critically poor effects it would have on the indigenous peoples of Standing Rock. Another component of completing the construction of DAPL is that excessive fracking would need to occur in the Bakken shale region in North Dakota. This is both extremely harmful to the environment and disruptive to those who live near the construction. In regards to those who have gone to stand in solidarity and protest at Standing Rock, there have been many clashes between police and protesters. Law enforcement blasted protesters with water cannons in freezing temperatures in December. As of December 2016, there are about 1,000 protesters at Standing Rock. Jeanne Eagle Bull Oxendine, a protester who is a Navy veteran from South Dakota “described the many camps where food and water resources were destroyed by the police” (Rainey) in attempts to sabotage protests. Multiple videos have been posted on social media over the past months showing “police officers using pepper spray to try and disperse dozens of protesters” (Reuters). The Morton County Sheriff’s Department is even using violent militaristic tactics against Standing Rock protesters by committing mass arrests, macing, clubbing, hooding, strip searching, and using armed confrontation with unarmed peaceful protesters. From a political standpoint, many powerful figures recently appointed to positions in the White House plan on doing nothing to stop the construction of DAPL despite the issues with its legality. Rick Perry, the newly nominated Energy Secretary, has a large share in ETP, and therefore is interested in DAPL’s completion and success. Also, president-elect Donald Trump has his “own vested economic interest in the completion of DAPL” (Haraldsson) since he too owns a stake in ETP. Trump made a statement on the issue saying “when I get into office, if it’s not solved, I’ll have it solved very quickly” (Fox News). Trump’s transition team even “announced his official support of the pipeline project” (Brown). It is likely that the president’s term will have negative effects on the situation for all those fighting against the completion of DAPL.
On December 4, 2016, the Army Corps of Engineers denied the companies behind the construction of DAPL an easement to build underneath the Missouri River and blocked their permit for construction. Because of this, ETP is being forced to reroute DAPL; however, it is rumored that the company is planning on continuing with construction anyway, paying a fine of $50,000 a day. Furthermore, “the U.S. Department of Justice again denied a request for additional funding in Morton County to assist law enforcement with the Dakota Access Pipeline protests” on December 14, 2016 (Hyatt). DAPL was planned to have been completed by January 1, 2017; however, that completion date has passed, and the construction on the pipeline is still not finished yet due to the solidarity of protesters across the world who are disgusted at the injustices faced by the peoples of Standing Rock.