By now you have surely heard of the protests at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in ND to block the Dakota Access Pipeline or DAPL. The construction of this 1200 mile pipeline, set to carry crude oil from the Bakkan oil fields in North Dakota to Illinois, has been surrounded with controversy. The Native American tribes say the pipeline would damage or destroy sites of historical and cultural significance as well as ancient burial grounds. This is land they claim is theirs acquired through The Treaty of Fort Laramie of 1851. They are worried that an accident or leak from this pipeline would threaten the environment and could potentially jeapordize the Missouri River, which the pipeline would pass through, that they and millions of others rely on for clean drinking water.
Protests started at the pipeline construction site in April by the Sioux (Oceti Sakowin) tribe members, calling themselves water protectors, and has attracted Native Americans from all over America. It is thought to be the largest gathering of indigenous people in America in more than a hundred years. Peaceful protests in an attempt to save their land has exploded into the national consciousness and drawn thousands of people from around America to join them in this fight against Big Oil, banks, and corporate interests from wealthy investors. (Donald Trump even owns shares in Energy Transfer Partners/ Sunoco logistics- the group responsible for the pipeline).
Recently these peaceful protesters have been met with violence and brutal opposition from militarized police forces from at least 5 states, who are protecting and ensuring completion of this multi-billion dollar investment construction project. Police are being used in almost the same way our military protects oil fields under attack in the Middle East. The acts of aggression towards peaceful protesters have been down right disgusting. Unarmed men, women and children have been arrested, attacked by dogs, maced, beaten by batons, shot at with rubber bullets, concussion gernades, tear gas canisters, sound cannons and recently even sprayed with high pressure water hoses in sub freezing temperatures. Hundreds have been injured and even more have been detained. These despicable atrocities towards citizens of the U.S., exercising their 1st Amendment right, have been caught on video, captured with endless pictures, and shared rampantly through social media worldwide. The world is watching despite the lack of mainstream media coverage. These acts of violence by police have been categorically denied despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Leadership from our federal, state, or local governments have yet to intercede to diffuse the situation. Instead, they are also now threatening protesters with all of their might, including the Governor of North Dakota and even the Army Corp of engineers. They are now ordering that the protesters disperse from the construction/ protest areas within the next week. I must say, I personally am disgusted that President Obama has not stepped in and stopped this madness.
Map of US pipelines- Blue represents oil pipelines, Red represents natural gas pipelines
The company behind the DAPL project says the pipeline will be safe! Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a safe pipeline. In the U.S., there are over 2.5 million miles of pipelines. That is enough pipeline to wrap around the entire globe 100x! Half of those pipelines are more than fifty years old, and this aging infrastructure produces spills almost daily threatening our water sources, environment, and wildlife nationwide, not just in Standing Rock. Only 188 federal inspectors oversee the inspection and integrity of these pipelines, so each inspector has about 13,000 miles of pipeline to inspect. That is impossible. Most of this work falls on the companies themselves, which have proven, time and time again, that they don’t take safety nearly as seriously as they should. Since 2010, there have been 4,269 pipeline incidents, spills or leaks with at least 7 million gallons of oil spilled in our country in the past 6 years. Around one million gallons of that total can be attributed to one spill in Michigan alone. I searched far and wide to bring you an accurate number of the total amount of oil spilled in the U.S. over this time as a result of pipelines, but accurate numbers are almost impossible to find! You can find almost anything on the internet except damaging info on big oil. This total doesn’t include spills from railways, trucks, or boats. Nor does it include the hundreds of millions of gallons spilled into the ocean from offshore drilling accidents. Those numbers are only from pipeline incidents in America!
While the fight for clean water in North Dakota feels worlds away to most of us, oil and other non-renewable energy companies are likely destroying nature and jeapordizing water in your backyard as well. Five weeks ago today, Sunoco Logistics (which spills crude more often than any of its competitors with more than 200 leaks since 2010, the same company responsible for constructing the DAPL) had a pipeline break due to flash flooding that spilled 55,000 gallons of gasoline into the beautiful Susquehanna River that runs directly through the city of Harrisburg, in which I live, threatening local water supplies.
The oil and gas companies only care about profits, not about nature, or clean air and water. The massive domestic energy boom, since the end of the Bush era, has ramped up U.S. oil and gas production in an effort to move away from the need for foreign oil. Spills and incidents destroying nature have drastically risen as well (up 40-60% depending on what information you are lucky enough to find). We should be moving towards safe renewable energies! The time to save our planet and future is now! It is time for us all to join the fight to protect our land and water! I encourage anyone who reads this to get involved. Get engaged in this fight before disaster strikes close to you. We have to start winning these battles and sending a message to our leaders that money is not more important than clean air and water! The government has proven they will always side with big money interests. The horrible images you are seeing from North Dakota could be happening in your neighborhood soon as well.
I stand with Standing Rock! You can’t drink oil, keep it in the soil!
“You can live without money. You can live without oil, but you can’t live without water!”
If anyone would like to help contribute to providing supplies for our water protectors please click the link below to donate.
Special thanks to all of the water protectors and especially Lindsey Norton for allowing me to use her powerful images from the front lines at Standing Rock! Stay safe and stay warm Water protectors/ Heroes! We appreciate you all!