The situation in North Dakota, where the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and thousands of allies are camped out to protest the Dakota Access oil pipeline under construction, changes every day. Harrowing footage of police and security clashing with what the movement has dubbed “protectors” have filled social media feeds. What’s happening at Standing Rock and what does it mean?
EarthShare member Earthjustice has been representing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their court case against the federal government since the summer and explains the legal battle:
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is deeply concerned about two broad issues:
First, the pipeline would pass under the Missouri River just a half a mile upstream of the tribe’s reservation boundary, where a spill would be culturally and economically catastrophic. Second, the pipeline would pass through areas of great cultural significance, such as sacred sites and burial grounds that federal law seeks to protect.
The Tribe sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers... [for violating] multiple federal statutes, including the Clean Water Act, National Historic Protection Act, and National Environmental Policy Act, when it issued the permits.
“Earthjustice is honored to represent the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in court as it seeks to protect its people’s sacred lands and water from the Dakota Access pipeline,” said Trip Van Noppen, president of Earthjustice.
As of November 8, the situation in Standing Rock is in flux. Energy Transfer Partners, the pipeline owners, have ignored the federal government’s request to “voluntarily pause” construction and have arrested nearly 150 people for trying to prevent construction. To keep up with the latest developments at Standing Rock, visit Earthjustice’s FAQs page.
The tribe’s concern about pipeline spills is legitimate. According to CCN, there were 132 “significant” spills in in the US in 2015, or roughly one every three days. A spill in the Missouri River would impact the drinking water of millions.
“Major oil spills in rivers including the Yellowstone and Kalamazoo in recent years raise serious questions about pipeline safety,” said Bob Irvin, President of American Rivers, another EarthShare member. “Water is life, for the Standing Rock Sioux and for every American. Clean water is essential to our health and well-being.”
Environmental organizations like American Rivers, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the National Wildlife Federation are calling on the Obama Administration to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement and/or revoke the permit. They also note that the Sioux’s land rights, established by the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851, are being ignored.
“The Corps must fulfill its trust responsibility to Tribal Nations, respect their treaty rights, and properly consult them so that Native Peoples, and all Americans, can be fully informed about whether the Dakota Access Pipeline is worth the costs,” said Garrit Voggesser and Jim Murphy of the National Wildlife Federation.
In addition to speaking out on Dakota Access, how can we address our dependence on oil, the underlying cause of more pipelines and pipeline spills?
EarthShare member Environment America has just released a road map with 50 steps for building a carbon-free transportation system. From public transit and walkable communities, to electric vehicles and advances in information technology, we have the tools to break our addiction to oil and build a healthier, cleaner world.
“The tools to transition to carbon-free transportation are already here,” said Katie Hammer of Environment America. “In fact, we already see several cities and states leading the way with technology and innovation.” She goes on to note the advances cities like Portland, Nashville, and Los Angeles have made in offering residents more climate-friendly ways to commute. Adopted globally, such ideas make pipelines like the Dakota Access less appealing to build in the first place.
To learn more about the Dakota Access pipeline, resistance to fossil fuel expansion, and solutions to oil use, visit our members:
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s Litigation on the Dakota Access Pipeline, Earthjustice
Ancient Voices, Today’s Struggles: Learning from Indigenous Resistance, Food & Water Watch
The Hidden Costs of Fossil Fuels, Union of Concerned Scientists
Imagine a future with zero-carbon transportation, Environment America