Anti-fracking champions continue to argue that the Dakota oil pipeline desecrates tribal burial grounds despite various surveys showing the project went to extraordinary lengths to avoid trampling on hollowed ground.
Prominent anti-oil activists like Bill McKibben spent the last several months urging their cohorts to join the crusade against the Dakota Access Pipeline, a $3.8 billion project forged by Energy Transfer Partners.
The prominent environmentalist and academic took to The New York Times to rally his minions.
“The company building the pipeline has pushed the local authorities to remove protesters from land where construction has already desecrated indigenous burial sites,” McKibben wrote Friday in an editorial for The NYT.
The situation is more complicated than McKibben makes out.
Cultural surveys conducted in North Dakota before the pipeline received approval show 91 of the 149 eligible sites contained stone features considered sacred to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. It is expected to shuttle, once completed, more than 500,000 barrels of Bakken oil from North Dakota to Illinois.
The pipeline was rerouted and modified to avoid all 91 of those areas, and all but nine of the other potentially eligible sites.
The modifications convinced the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to deny a motion for a preliminary injunction in September by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, citing the inability of the tribe to show how the pipeline would damage the group’s sacred ground.
The Obama administration shelved the 1,100-mile-long pipeline Sept. 9 in an effort to give the government more time to determine the effects the project will have on the environment.
The D.C. Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals came to a similar decision a week later, temporarily halting construction within 20 miles of Lake Oahe in North Dakota while the court considers whether to order a longer delay.
Legal analysts came out of the woodwork, berating President Barack Obama’s decision.
Richard Epstein, a New York University law professor, called “the aggressive and unexplained actions” by the Department of Justice (DOJ), “unprecedented in the annals of American environmental litigation.”
Epstein, who advised Energy Transfers Partners, suggested in a post at Forbes that the Standing Rock Sioux tribe had plenty of time to consult with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers but refused – instead, the “Tribe boycotted the entire” consulting process, he wrote.
The Army Corps of Engineers attempted more than a dozen times between 2014 and 2016, according to court documents, to discuss the DAPL route with the Standing Rock. The tribe either failed to respond to requests for consultation or dragged its feet during the process.
McKibben also called the entire project – beginning to end – an exercise in “environmental racism.”
“The solution, in keeping with American history,” he wrote, referencing the DAPL’s decision to reroute the pipeline, was to “make the crossing instead just above the Standing Rock reservation, where the poverty rate is nearly three times the national average.”
He then goes on to suggest the pipeline will likely end in the second coming of “Flint,” a reference to the mostly-black city in Michigan still reeling from lead-tainted water due to government incompetence.
Energy Transfer Partners moved the project South near the Standing Rock reservation, because it was 11 miles shorter and considered less impactful on the environment, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The new pipeline also cost $23 million less than the initial route.
The company relied on eminent domain to construct routes four states from North Dakota, to Iowa and to Illinois, so rerouting it as McKibben prefers would require more eminent domain permits, and consequently, the taking of more private property for pipeline construction.
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