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RAYMOND-GARCIA: DAPL is representative of our government being inhumane

Opinions Column: A Ray of Esperanza


The events that have occurred surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline Project (DAPL) over the past few months have been increasingly dehumanizing and downright terrifying. The kind of precedent it is setting for the way future government officials and corporations deal with issues surrounding indigenous rights and protection of water sources is a haunting one.

The DAPL is a 1,170-mile underground oil pipeline that would transport 470,000 barrels of crude oil per day and spans from the Bakken Formation in North Dakota to Illinois. It was approved in July on a “fast-track,” which means Energy Transfer Partners and its affiliates were able to start construction on the pipeline aggressively quick to meet the scheduled completion date. The individuals with the most power to stop the pipeline are the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers because they have the final decision over the project's fate.

There are a number of reasons as to why this pipeline is a major concern. The Federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration reported 184,982 barrels of hazardous liquid were spilled from pipelines from 1995 to 2015. This had a lot to do with the lack of maintenance of the pipelines. Only 139 federal pipeline inspectors are responsible for examining over 2.6 million miles of pipelines across the country, which means each inspector is in charge of nearly 18,000 miles of pipeline. These issues are the reason why the Standing Rock Sioux and other Native tribes have come to the forefront of fighting for the right to safe water for human and animal use and consumption. The Standing Rock Reservation’s population relies solely on drinking water connected to the proposed pipeline route. If a pipeline spill were to happen, enough contaminants would be released to exceed safe drinking water standards, according to a 2013 pipeline risk assessment by environmental consultants. As an added note, the pipeline is opposed by virtually all major environmental groups.

The pipeline was not originally routed to run through sovereign Native land. It was originally proposed to run through Bismarck, North Dakota, but when individuals in this city heard that a pipeline of such magnitude was going to run through it, they protested. It is interesting that their protests were met with a reroute — but the protests of Native individuals are met with increasingly intense amounts of resistance. When the plans to reroute the pipeline to Native lands were in the works, the proper procedures were not made as laid out in the laws protecting these sovereign lands. Native tribes were contacted at the end of the decision-making process instead of during. As stated in law, Native peoples are to be integrated in the process of projects affecting their lands from beginning to end.

The actions that the government and corporate officials have and have not taken thus far may not be enough to make you do something in solidarity with the Native tribes and the future of our water sources, but the water protectors, as they are called, are being subject to inhumane actions by these same entities. They include being trapped on a bridge while subjected to tear gas and water cannons in below-freezing temperatures, having iron bullets coated in rubber fired at them, being attacked by guard dogs used by unlicensed DAPL guards and there will most likely be more violence on the way. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers previously issued a statement ordering DAPL protestors to leave camp by Dec. 4. However, there was a nation-wide movement by U.S. veterans to self-deploy to the DAPL camp and help protect them from the forces trying to further harm them, and on the same day, the Army Corps of Engineers halted the pipeline.

All of this is to say that we have a current example of what happens when government officials and corporations are not held accountable for actions that are illegal, inhumane and should not have happened in the first place. Now that there is a considerable amount of press and conversation surrounding this issue, we all have a moral obligation to continue to spread the word and participate in actions that dictate present and future solidification of human rights and environmental rights. You can sign a petition to President Obama requesting him to stop the pipeline permanently. This is an ongoing issue and we are not past it, as many people claim. Take a stand and no longer be complicit in an in issue that affects all of us, because it will not go away until we do something about it.

Vanessa Raymond-Garcia is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in women’s and gender studies with a minor in public policy and a dual candidate for a master’s in public policy. Her column, "A Ray of Esperanza," runs on alternate Mondays.

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