Dakota Pipeline Part 3: Water protectors and the Emperor’s New Pipeline


Photo by Jeffrey Putney, published under Creative Commons license

I remember the old story of the emperor’s new clothes. The emperor bought new clothes from a charlatan who sold him on the idea of clothes so fine that they would be invisible to anyone who was stupid or unfit for their position. The emperor paraded before his courtiers and sycophants and everyone admired the new clothes. Only a child said, “But he isn’t wearing any clothes!”

Today pipeline companies and their buddies in government dismiss the threats posed by pipelines. Nobody should worry about the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), tunneling underneath the Missouri River. Maybe some old pipelines leak, but this is a new pipeline. Can’t you see the difference? The emperor’s new pipeline poses no problems.

“We don’t want this black snake within our Treaty boundaries,” Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II told Indian Country Today. “We need to stop this pipeline that threatens our water.”

He must not know about the emperor’s new pipeline. He and the thousands of water protectors camped at Sacred Stone Camp must be thinking of some other pipeline. No one could worry about the emperor’s new pipeline, could they?

“An early proposal for the Dakota Access Pipeline called for the project to cross the Missouri River north of Bismarck, but one reason that route was rejected was its potential threat to Bismarck’s water supply, documents show.” (Bismarck Tribune, 8/18/2016)

The new DAPL route tunnels under the Missouri River. The new DAPL runs half a mile north of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation. Eight thousand plus residents of Standing Rock get their drinking water from the Missouri River. Millions of people downstream draw water from the Missouri River for drinking or irrigation.

Not to worry, my friends. Can’t you see the emperor’s new pipeline? It’s perfectly safe.

On September 9, a pipeline spill in Alabama dumped six or eight thousand barrels of gas. No worries, though — because of lack of rain, the streams are dry and can’t carry the gasoline into the river. According to a 2012 Pro Public analysis, “The 2.5 million miles of America’s pipelines suffer hundreds of leaks and ruptures every year, costing lives and money.” A patchwork of pipeline regulation as well as chronic underfunding for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration contribute to the problem:

“The industry’s relationship with PHMSA may go further than inspections, critics say. The agency has adopted, at least in part, dozens of safety standards written by the oil and natural gas industry.

“‘This isn’t like the fox guarding the hen house,’ said Weimer. ‘It’s like the fox designing the hen house.'”

“We have a serious obligation, a core responsibility to our people and to our children, to protect our source of water,” Standing Rock Sioux Tribe chair David Archambault II told Indian Country Today. “Our people will receive no benefits from this pipeline, yet we are paying the ultimate price for it with our water. We will not stop asking the federal government and Army Corps to end their attacks on our water and our people.”

Important as water protection concerns are, objections to the pipeline run even deeper. The half million barrels of oil scheduled to run through the Dakota Access Pipeline daily would come from Bakken’s fracking fields and would go south through Iowa and on to refineries and probable export. Both during extraction and later during use as fuel, the oil inexorably adds to earth’s carbon load and global warming.

Environmental journalist Aura Bogado told Vox:

“Environmental racism is woven into our society’s fabric. The very founding of this country was an environmental disaster, made possible through settler colonialism, and vice versa. The historical emissions produced by white colonists have greatly contributed to climate change, leaving indigenous peoples and people of color — that is, the very people who didn’t contribute to global warming much at all — most vulnerable. I see a lot of stories that reference climate change without much of an understanding about who’s responsible for creating it. It didn’t appear out of nowhere; it was part of a larger violent process of theft and genocide, and it’s stunning to me that most environmental journalists don’t really seem to get that.”

For years, Native Americans joined environmental activists in opposing the Sandpiper pipelines in northern Minnesota. The proposed routes ran through wild rice lakes and close to reservations. Finally, earlier this year, Enbridge announced that the Sandpiper was on hold: now it would transport oil through DAPL. Native American activist Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth, told Democracy Now:

“I could have said, ‘Hey, good luck, y’all. We beat it here. Good luck.’ You know? But, no, we said we’re going to follow them out here, too, because we believe that—you know, we could spend our lives fighting one pipeline after another after another, but someone needs to challenge the problem and say, ‘This is not the way to go, America. This is not the way to go for any of us.'”

For more –

By now, everyone who reads this blog has heard about #NoDAPL, the protests in North Dakota over the Dakota Access Pipeline. The issues are either very simple (NO to all pipelines, everywhere, end of story) or quite complex. Yeah – I’ll go with quite complex. So this is part 3 of a series of posts on various issues around #NoDAPL. Here are links to the other posts, updated as I continue the series:


Filed under environment, human rights, race

5 responses to “Dakota Pipeline Part 3: Water protectors and the Emperor’s New Pipeline

  1. Pingback: Dakota Pipeline Part 4: Protest on the prairie | News Day

  2. Pingback: Dakota Pipeline Part 1: Breaking the rules | News Day

  3. Pingback: Dakota Pipeline Part 2: Betrayal by bulldozer | News Day

  4. Pingback: Dakota Pipeline Part 5: Jailing journalists and paying sock puppets | News Day

  5. Pingback: St. Paul’s Indigenous Day Parade; The Pope on Climate Change; Horse Ride to Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline; and More |

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