Dakota Tribe’s New Water System May End Concerns Over Oil Leaks

Chris White | Energy Reporter

The American Indian tribe arguing the Dakota Access Pipeline would leak oil in its water source finalized a years-long plan to move its water source 70 miles downstream of the project.

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe orchestrated a months-long battle against the pipeline due in large part to worries about contamination of their primary water source.

The decision to plant a water treatment plant several miles downwind of the pipeline’s location, environmental analysts argue, may dispel concerns associated with the project. The relocation was years in the making.

Standing Rock currently gets its water 20 miles away from the so-called DAPL.

The tribe maintains its opposition to the DAPL, even though the distance from the pipeline to the new plant would dramatically reduce widespread contamination risks.

“Just because the new intake is 70 miles away doesn’t mean our water is still not threatened,” David Archambault, Standing Rock chairman, said when asked what effect the new water plant would have on the pipeline.

Environmental protesters and members of Standing Rock also believe the pipeline’s construction would trample on tribal lands and destroy artifacts. Cultural surveys show the pipeline route does not cut through the tribe’s reservation or tribal lands.

The company behind the line’s construction – Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) – is currently weaving its way through the courts, regulatory morass, and environmentalist protests to build the multi-billion-dollar pipeline. It’s expected to bring 470,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil per day from western North Dakota to southern Illinois.

The company also claims the $3.8 billion pipeline will create an estimated 8,000 to 12,000 jobs.

Proponents believes the fight against the project has more to do with money than environmental concerns.

Standing Rock believes it can extract “easy money” from ETP if it pressures the company enough, the Washington Examiner reported Tuesday.

Developers of the pipeline offered to install water quality sensors, and construct a fresh water storage facility to store water in case of a pipeline leak to the Standing Rock, according to the report.

Sources close to discussions between the two sides claim DAPL offered the tribe emergency vehicles in the event the pipeline ruptured. It wasn’t enough. The tribe demanded a shipping fee for delivering the oil.

The source added: “But time and again the tribe rebuffed or ignored the company’s offers demanding, instead, a toll on the crude that passed through the pipeline, an ultimatum that showed the tribe’s true desire — easy money.”

The project’s current route would tunnel it 90 feet below the floor of the Missouri River.  It would take nearly 14 hours for oil to reach the tribe’s new intake valve.

“The new intake really does effectively reduce the concerns that this oil pipeline could impact the tribe’s water supply,” said Julie Fedorchak, head of North Dakota’s Public Service Commission.

The EPA refused to speculate on how a leak could affect the new water system.

“Circumstances related to oil releases can vary significantly,” said EPA spokesman Richard Mylott.

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