The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) was a major topic in American politics up until recently. Though the popularity of the issue has died down; I still want to give some information about the case. The DAPL has been widely hated due to its crossing of ancient Sioux burial grounds, the Missouri River, and Lake Oahe. The combination of these factors brings major attention to the pipeline. The majority of the widespread attention has been hatred, and my goal is to explain why that hatred is unnecessary.
First, I’ll address the point about it crossing over Sioux burial grounds, and this will surely be the quickest point to debunk. The DAPL may cross the burial grounds, but the DAPL never actually touches the Sioux reservation. The pipelines crossing of burial grounds is disrespectful to the Sioux, but they have no control over the land. So their outrage is completely unjustified.
The crossing of water is a harder point to deunk. One of the major reasons for outrage is that the pipeline crosses Lake Oahe due to the fear that oil spills will contaminate the water. An oil spill is a totally justified fear, but it doesn’t make sense whenever there are already multiple pipelines under the lake including a major natural gas pipeline. However, it is perplexing as to why this is a major issue when the new pipeline will be modern, safer, and deeper.
This other major pipeline was constructed in 1983 and is called the Northern Border Pipeline, and it transports 2 million cubic feet of natural gas a day under Lake Oahe. Surely this is enough natural gas to contaminate the water. This pipeline was also built many years ago which means two things, it wasn’t built under the same safety regulations as the new pipeline will be, and it also wasn’t built with modern, safer, technology like the DAPL will be constructed with.
The Northern Border Pipeline it is much closer to the surface than the DAPL will be. The DAPL will be a minimum of 95 feet under the water. At a depth of 95 feet the DAPL will be considerably further underground than the Northern Border. What this means is that even if the Northern Border Pipeline isn’t as large as the new one; it’s much more likely to have a major incident and contaminate the water. There are a total of eight pipelines under the lake. It’s not a ridiculous fear to worry about the water in the lake to be contaminated, but it is ridiculous if you fear the new pipeline and don’t fear the old ones. But most people don’t fear the old pipelines because they have no knowledge of these pipelines.
The other major water source that people fear will be contaminated is the Missouri River. Missouri River contamination is an even larger fear than the fear of the contamination of Lake Oahe due to the fact that the Missouri is the primary water source for the Sioux tribe. But once again this fear, though justified, is ridiculous because the protesters forget about the Northern Blue Pipeline that crosses the river only a few miles up the road. Now, the presence of a previous pipeline does not mean people shouldn’t have concerns over a new one, but it does mean that it’s illogical to fear about this new pipeline without fearing about the old one as well.
However, there have been some spills to fuel the fear of the people. In April of 2017 there was a minor spill where 84 gallons of oil leaked out of the pipeline during the line-filling process. This oil was immediately cleaned up and had no effects on the environment. However, this fear, fortunately, has no place anymore due to the line-filling process being over.
There was also a separate spill that occurred 5 days later resulting in 20 gallons being spilled. The spill was cleaned immediately as before with no impact to the environment. This spill was due to a construction error. A similar spill is likely, but with rapid response a minimal to no impact on the environment will occur. Major pipeline spills are rare. Furthermore, a pipeline is much safer than transporting oil by train or truck.
On July 6, 2013, in Lac-Megantic, Quebec a trail filled with oil derailed. This train exploded in the town and killing 42 people with 5 more missing. Nearly 30 buildings were destroyed, and 36 more buildings downtown are due to be demolished due to petroleum contamination. Although oil spills can occur, the damage done is far less than the damage resulting from a train derailment.
But why is shipping it by truck bad? First, it’s inefficient and so companies will not use it very often and those major oil fields will remain untouched. Secondly, it’s dangerous as well. A truck can easily veer off the road due to multiple reasons, and the risk intensifies due to North and South Dakota’s intense winters were ice could easily drive a truck off the road. Their crashes aren’t as severe as a railroad’s but they are severe, and a pipeline is a much safer and more efficient alternative.
Another great thing about pipelines, in general, is the money flow into local hands. I was raised in deep West Texas and a few months ago they started construction on a major natural gas pipeline, and this pipeline crossed over lots of private lands. Every ranch that this pipeline touched was given large sums of money. I personally know of a man who allowed the pipeline to cross less than 10 acres of his land, and he was compensated with several thousand dollars. Companies will compensate a landowner more if the pipeline goes over their ranch.
This particular pipeline that I grew up around had a minimal impact on the local environment. In fact, most of the places the pipeline crossed over look better than the land around the pipeline. After the pipeline is placed, the company leveled out the land. The company then plowed the land so plants could grow over it. Ranches benefit from this landscaping as weeds are very common; so this grass growth is quite a boon to these ranchers. The land they crossed essentially looks like a big dirt road, except a lot cleaner. So I can’t say for sure that DAPL is the same way, but with the regulations, pipelines are forced to deal with; I’m sure it’s quite similar.
But what about the economic benefits of the pipeline? It may not seem beneficial whenever you look at the cost of 3.78 billion dollars, but that’s nothing compared to the benefits to the economy it offers. The pipeline will generate 55 million dollars annually in property tax, and North and South Dakota will receive 13 million each from this tax increase.
This doesn’t account for the jobs, and though there isn’t a definite number of how many jobs have been created, but no pipeline is built without creating thousands of jobs. And then we must account for how much the pipeline has helped rural hotels, which have had their occupancy rates skyrocket due to the pipeline.
The pipeline is expected to carry half a million barrels of oil per day, which will dramatically reduce cost of freight, it will cost about $8 dollars to transport a barrel of oil, which is extremely lower than the $15 dollar cost to transport oil by rail, which will add up to even hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue for the owners of oil wells connected to the pipeline.
In conclusion, this pipeline never touches Sioux land. And though it does introduce a whole new fear for the local environment, there was already a major fear for the local environment and this new one may even be less serious. And even though pipelines have their own dangers, the alternatives are just as bad if not worse. Plus their less efficient. Pipelines also benefit the local community, and they do not hurt the land they cross unless a spill occurs which is unlikely. And with the economic benefits considered, this pipeline is surely worth the risks it poses