Liberals, Labor Unions Come To Blows Over Dakota Access Pipeline

Chris White | Energy Reporter

Labor activist groups blasted one of the largest labor unions in the country Monday for endorsing the construction of a controversial, multi-billion dollar oil pipeline in North Dakota.

The Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) joined a coalition of union workers to oppose the project, which is slated to deliver more than 4,500 jobs to three states along the pipeline’s route.

APALA is a member group of the AFL-CIO, with 20 chapters worldwide.

Labor Coalition for Community Action, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement were among those telling union members to stand together and oppose “corporate greed.”

“As organizations dedicated to elevating the struggles of our respective constituencies, we stand together to support our Native American kinfolk — one of the most marginalized and disenfranchised groups in our nation’s history—in their fight to protect their communities from further displacement and exploitation,” the group wrote in a press release Monday.

Many of the same environmentalist groups that opposed the Keystone XL pipeline have joined the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAP), which would bring 470,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil per day from western North Dakota to southern Illinois.

“We remain committed to fighting the corporate interests that back this project and name this pipeline ‘a pipeline of corporate greed,” the group added.

The APALA was responding to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka’s decision to throw his lot in with those supporting the 1,200-mile long pipeline. He wrote in a press release Friday that the Dakota Access Pipeline would provide “quality jobs to tens of thousands of skilled workers.”

The pipeline has undergone raging arguments over the past month, most of it revolving around concerns brought up by Native American tribe Standing Rock Sioux. The group believes the pipeline, which will run 90 feet below the bed of the Missouri River, could potentially trample on tribal artifacts.

The D.C. Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals decided on Sept. 17 that construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline would be temporarily stopped within 20 miles of Lake Oahe in North Dakota while the court considers whether to order a longer delay.

The pipeline is a joint venture between energy companies Marathon Petroleum Corp. and Enbridge Energy Partners LP, and Energy Transfer Partners.

The Obama administration directed the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior on Sept. 9 to shelve the project until the government can determine the effects it will have on the environment.

Legal analysts continue to berate President Barack Obama’s decision.

Richard Epstein, a New York University law professor, called “the aggressive and unexplained actions” by the Justice Department, “unprecedented in the annals of American environmental litigation.”

Epstein, who has advised Energy Transfers Partners, suggested in a post on Forbes that the Standing Rock Sioux tribe had plenty of time to consult with the Army Corps of Engineers but refused – instead, the “Tribe boycotted the entire” consulting process, he wrote.

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