Passions haven’t simmered down at a North Dakota construction site for the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Energy opponents continue to use water and cultural concerns to mask their true, anti-energy agenda.
One of those national leaders, Jane Kleeb, who fought the Keystone XL pipeline in Nebraska, wants to replicate her “success” in North Dakota. Only her idea of success means less energy for her fellow Americans.
The involvement of a man who has written, “We have to keep 80 percent of the fossil-fuel reserves that we know about underground,” shows us what this protest is really about.
It isn’t about water or cultural concerns. It’s about making it so hard to get energy from where it’s produced to where it’s consumed that production stops. “Block the infrastructure, block the development,” Rob Port wrote last month.
It’s simply a “keep it in the ground” strategy involving arrests and destruction.
McKibben, Kleeb, and their friends don’t like the shale boom at all and want to take us to a fantasy world where fossil fuels aren’t used. But that’s ignores history. These energy sources have lifted billions of people out of poverty, fueled our economic prosperity, and allowed so many of us to live healthy lives. Abandoning politically incorrect energy will leave many of us living shorter, harsher, more-miserable lives.
Blocking energy infrastructure like the Dakota Access Pipeline holds America back at a time when we’re enjoying an energy renaissance, as Matt Koch of the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy explains:
Yet we run the risk of losing the advantages due to the politicization by environmentalists of the pipeline and transmission line projects needed to move energy to where it is needed. Many areas in the U.S. are already missing out on the full benefits of our energy revolution because it has been difficult to move our energy from where it is produced to where it is needed.
Along the pipeline’s construction route, August was marred with arson and threats of violence—all the while law enforcement and security personnel displayed tremendous patience and restraint.
Things continued to be ugly over the Labor Day weekend, NPR reports:
In a statement, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department said protesters marched from their encampment onto private lands, where the pipeline is being constructed.
“Once protestors arrived at the construction area, they broke down a wire fence by stepping and jumping on it,” the sheriff’s office said. “According to numerous witnesses within five minutes the crowd of protestors, estimated to be a few hundred people became violent. They stampeded into the construction area with horses, dogs and vehicles.”
Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said it “was more like a riot than a protest.”
Protesters hit dogs with sticks and clashed with security guards, and Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein acted very unpresidential by vandalizing construction equipment. A warrant for her arrest has been issued.
An important detail to this is construction is happening on private land, not on a reservation.
[To get up to speed on the issue, The Bismarck Tribune has a timeline of past stories.]
Tensions are so high that the National Guard will provide backup for law enforcement as we wait for a federal judge to rule on injunctions that may or may not delay construction or protests.
UPDATE: A federal judge denied the Standing Rock Sioux’s request for a temporary injunction to stop work on the pipeline.
In the meantime, the protest has turned into a cause celebre. Movie stars make a blurry video supporting the pipeline protesters. Protesters are collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars indonations to support a long-term protest: propane; water; food; and blankets.
It’s also not about threats to tribal lands. We know this because after going through public records from the Army Corps of Engineers, SayAnythingBlob.com’s Rob Port reports the Dakota Access Pipeline route nearly matches that of gas pipeline already in the ground:
Before reading this report I had no idea there was another pipeline already running through this area, but there is. It’s called the Northern Border Pipeline. It’s a natural gas line built all the way back in 1982, and the Dakota Access Pipeline follows it often, including through the areas currently being disputed by protesters.
This is no mere coincidence. I spoke with Justin Kringstad at the ND Pipeline Authority who told me that the Dakota Access line “generally follows the same corridor” as the Northern Border line, and that this sort of thing is “not uncommon.” It can be easier to get easements and regulatory approval for a pipeline built where another pipeline has already gone through.
Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak also told me that the Dakota Access line “tried to follow wherever possible the Northern Border pipeline.”
The two routes aren’t exact, but through the area where pipeline construction has sparked violent protests the two lines run side by side according to Energy Transfer Partners.
“We parallel this pipeline for about the last 40 miles” leading up to the Missouri River/Lake Oahe crossing spokeswoman Vickin Anderson Granado told me.
So 30 years ago, did protestors knock down fences and damage equipment when that pipeline was being constructed? Were movie stars joining in solidarity with protestors?
No, in fact, as Port notes, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission records show locals didn’t put up much of a fuss:
Northern Border and Natural [pipeline builders] contacted Native American tribes to elicit any interests or concerns regarding construction of the proposed project, especially as it affects any sites of historic, cultural, or religious significance. Northern Border received responses from the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, the Three Affiliated Tribes of North Dakota, the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, and the Peoria Tribe of Indians in Oklahoma. The Three Affiliated Tribes expressed concern about the possible existence of archeological sites at Compressor Stations 5 and 7. No other responses expressed any concerns about the project. Natural has received no response from Native American groups.
As for the Dakota Access Pipeline, it has undergone a thorough, public review process that engaged thousands of people in the region.
Yet the Standing Rock Sioux tribe that is leading the protests didn’t attend any North Dakota Public Service Commission hearings on the pipeline. The tribe did meet with the Army Corps of Engineersnumerous times.
Ron Ness of the North Dakota Petroleum Council put it well:
[T]he future of this project is jeopardized by national environmental groups that have latched onto a Native American protest as a last-ditch effort to stop a project that they could not prevent through a regular, orderly review process. These actions attempt to disrupt the very rule of law that was established by these state regulatory organizations.
Energy opponents didn’t like the end result of a public process and so are using uncivil ways to try to stop it.
Their real intentions need to be called out and their uncivil disobedience rejected.
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EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of protesters pinning a security guard against a truck in North Dakota. Photo source: Morton County (N.D.) Sheriff’s Department