August 20, 2019 | 81° F

MACLANE: Media portrays false narrative about Dakota Access Pipeline

Opinions Column: Conservative Hot Corner


The Dakota Access Pipeline has been a subject of major controversy and has come under intense public protest. This pipeline has become a hot topic on social media, with different outlets promoting propaganda that it threatens both the environment and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s sacred lands. These claims, however, are inherently misleading and the use of memes and short videos allow these false narratives to be circulated.

The Dakota Access Pipeline is a $3.7 billion pipeline that is meant to connect the Bakken Formation, an oil-rich underground deposit, from North Dakota across 1,172 miles to South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois. An estimated 8,000 to 12,000 jobs would also be created from the construction of the pipeline along with an increase of $156 million in sales and income tax revenue for the state and local governments.

One aversion to the pipeline is that it creates the possibility of disrupting the water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The Missouri River, which supplies the drinking water of the tribe, will be crossed along the route of the pipeline. However, the pipeline will be built 90 feet below the riverbed of the Missouri River. This 90-foot mark is meant to ensure that the river will not be compromised if the pipeline were to fail. The pipeline will also feature “increased thickness and control valves at the ends of the crossing to reduce the risk of an incident, which is already low.” The water supply of the tribe will not be disrupted whatsoever.

When designating the route for the Dakota Access Pipeline, the United States Army Corps of Engineers took into account the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation. “The Army Corps consulted with 55 Native American tribes at least 389 times, after which they proposed 140 variations of the route to avoid culturally sensitive areas in North Dakota” according to Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who represents the sole Congressional District of North Dakota. Public hearings were also held as part of the review process, including three in North Dakota that members of the tribe failed to attend. The Army Corps also held multiple meetings with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Dakota Access proposed to meet on seven separate occasions with the Tribe, yet were rejected each time. The land required for this project in North Dakota — the state in which the the tribe's reservation is located — was obtained fully voluntarily without the use of eminent domain. The complaints for the pipeline should have been expressed at the time this was being planned, not when it’s in the process of being built.

Another aversion concerning the pipeline is that although it does not cross the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Reservation, it crosses land that is considered “sacred.” That has an incredibly subjective connotation to it. What constitutes “sacred,” and how far can this definition be stretched to halt public projects that would be largely beneficial? Considering a pipeline is much safer than the current use of transportation by train (a prime example is the Canadian train crash that occurred in 2013 resulting in the deaths of 47 people), these arbitrary claims should not prevent public projects that are highly beneficial to the American public.

This project was not easily approved either. The pipeline has received approval by each of the respective states’ environmental bureaucracies, the Department of the Interior (the secretary of which was appointed by President Barack Obama) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineering as well as state and local officials.

These facts have not dissipated large-scale protests that have been destructive and led to clashes with police. Protestors have resorted to setting fires that have caused $2 million in property damage. Evidence of Molotov cocktails being thrown at police officers and reports of three shots being fired at officers, including someone being shot in the hand, have surfaced. This response is totally unjustified considering the circumstances that befit the situation.

Prominent political leaders are also now involving themselves with these protests. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has called upon Obama to intervene to prevent the pipeline from being continued. Former Green Party Presidential nominee Jill Stein tweeted a picture of herself defacing construction equipment being used on the project leading to a warrant issued for her arrest. It is dishonest of these political leaders to use their influence and following to encourage baseless protests.

The First Amendment has laid the foundation for American society. Protests and demonstrations are key features in bringing attention to important present day issues as they did during the Civil Rights Movement. However, baseless protests that escalate to violence are totally dishonest and counterproductive as in the case of the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests.

Daniel MacLane is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in political science. His column, "Conservative Hot Corner," normally runs on alternate Mondays.

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Daniel MacLane

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