You’re wondering why a small town newspaperman has invested so much time covering a pipeline protest across the river? Because this is a global, national and local issue right in our back yard.
Our rural water comes from the spot near the pipeline’s path, a violation of the state’s Source Water Protection Program and another sign the state’s regulatory process is a rubber stamp for Big Oil.
When penalties are levied for the nearly six million gallons of oil and 12 million gallons of soil-killing brine spilled between 2006- 14, those fines are often reduced. When the radioactive waste levels become too high, instead of continuing to ship it out of state, our state government just decides to raise the acceptable level and dump it here. Then, the North Dakota Legislature gives Big Oil a 23-percent tax break that is costing the state an estimated $11 million a month. Remember that when you get your tax bill.
The rules have changed time and time again to suit Big Oil, which pours millions into state politics, including $370,000 to Jack Dalrymple’s gubernatorial race in 2012. Those are not contributions. It’s an investment. Dalrymple and U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., themselves have large investments in Bakken oil.
Now, late in the game, when Native Americans want to put the brakes on a pipeline that pushed forward without having a written easement from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the outcry is deafening. And hypocritical.
One conservative radio talker called President Obama “a tyrant” after the he temporarily halted the pipeline. But as commander-in-chief, Obama gets to tell the Army — including the Corps of Engineers — what to do. The administration called for a re-examination of the process that allowed one state’s Public Service Commission to point a pipeline at the heads of eight million people downstream. Essentially, North Dakota decided how much risk South Dakota and other states can assume.
How much risk? Too risky for Bismarck, we know that much. Now, a former DAPL worker says corners were cut on the pipeline under Lake Sakakawea. It’s just a matter of time before it leaks, he said.
In 2010, when the state-of-the-art BP Horizon well exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, it spilled four million barrels of oil in 87 days. The state-of-the-art DAPL will have the capacity to spill that much in a week, endangering not only the Missouri River, but the Ogallala Aquifer below that provides 30 percent of all water used in the U.S. for irrigation.
In March, EPA called for a reboot of the process because, “the Draft Environmental Assessment did not include any information on coordination and consultation with tribal governments other than in connection to historic and cultural resource impacts.” EPA added, “Crossings of the Missouri River have the potential to affect the primary source of drinking water for much of N.D., S.D. and Tribal Nations. Potential spills and leaks to the Missouri River (and tributaries) would quickly affect drinking water intakes and large areas of wetlands, habitat, and plant resources.”
The tribes have a case. But there are much larger issues at stake, including the First Amendment. The militaristic response by state government, the mercenary use of attack dogs by DAPL, incendiary and false language from public officials and media, echoes fascism. They’re arresting journalists.
They’re pushing farmers around downstream with the use of eminent domain to take their private property and transfer it to billionaires. Ironic, when you consider what happened to tribal lands.
There is an ongoing propaganda campaign online and in traditional media. They even had to rewrite reality at the North Dakota Heritage Center. Question everything. Consider that billions are at stake—not that you’ll see any of it. You’re on cleanup duty when the party’s over. Ask yourself, why would DAPL go out of its way to bulldoze ground listed in court documents as having great archeological and sacred significance? Was it a coverup? An attempt to bait protesters for PR purposes? Both?
This effort by Native Americans to protect their land and water has morphed into an historical turning point—the line of demarcation when people decided the fossil fuel industry holds too much environmental risk for the earth. While the goal of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is to stop this pipeline from being located near the reservation, others want to stop it completely. And I wouldn’t bet against that.
This has become the front line for a national and a global movement. After the skirmish with pipeline security, Reyna Crow, Duluth, Minnesota, said, with mace dripping from her eyes, “I hope we’ve accomplished letting Enbridge (the pipeline owners) know that the people of this nation and the people of this world, tribal or otherwise, have withdrawn their social license to pollute water, and that they need to find an honest, nonviolent way to make a living.”
More than 200 tribes have joined in this cause. We are witnessing the rebirth of the Indian Nation, united in the traditional role that most still hold as a sacred trust. Protectors of the water. Defenders of the land. Believers in the power of prayer. A culture that reveres its ancestors and is dedicated to the next seven generations. They are taking on corporations that look only to the next quarter.
Crazy Horse said, “Upon suffering beyond suffering: the Red Nation shall rise again and it shall be a blessing for a sick world. A world filled with broken promises, selfishness and separations. A world longing for light again. I see a time of Seven Generations when all the colors of mankind will gather under the Sacred Tree of Life and the whole Earth will become one circle again.”
Seven generations later, here we are.
© Tony Bender, 2016
Tony Bender is the former Editor of the Adams County Record and current President of Redhead Publishing in Ashley, ND. He has been a featured columnist around the state and earned multiple awards for his writing.