Dakota Pipeline Presents Environmental and Cultural Hazards
STANDING ROCK, ND – The Dakota Access Pipeline has been the focus of controversy since it was first proposed. US District Judge James E. Boasberg recently ruled to halt the pipeline pending further environmental review. His ruling was based upon the fact that ““it (the review of the pipeline) did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline’s effects are likely to be highly controversial.”
The Sioux Nation remains deeply concerned about the potential effects of an oil spill on their water supply.
The Dakota Access Pipeline at completion would go along 1,172 miles. The pipes would go under the Missouri River. The center of the issue is Lake Oahe, which the pipeline would run through. Lake Oahe has significant cultural influence to the Sioux Nation and is the source of the tribe’s drinking water. There have already been several incidences of oil spills along the part of the pipeline that has already been built.
In the South Dakota section of the pipeline, eighty-four gallons of oil were spilled in April of this year. One-hundred gallons of oil were leaked in western North Dakota in separate incidences.
The effects of an oil spill can be devastating. Oil will persist in water rather than be dissolved by it so oil can remain in a water source for years.
The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 was devastating to the local marine life. Thousands of dead starfish and coral were found. The oyster beds were similarly effected and may take years before they are fully recovered.
Humans can also be effected by an oil spill. Oil contains carcinogens, which are cancer causing compounds. An oil spill in Ogoniland, Nigeria killed thousands of people and livestock and the survivors still have to deal with high rates of cancer. The water in Ogoniland is affected by benzene, a carcinogen that is a natural part of the crude oil process. Families that rely on fishing can find their livelihood cut off by an oil spill.
In addition, the Sioux Nation relies on the water for the performance of certain sacred rites. If the water is contaminated, they will not be able to carry out those rites.
Native American religion is bound to the land. The land itself is sacred according to the Sioux religion. It is the home of ancestors and gods who must be respected. The land which the pipeline would be built on would be on burial grounds which are also considered sacred.
Sioux elder, Spotted Eagle, compared the pipeline to the Sioux Nation trying to build on Arlington Cemetery.
The pipeline would have a damaging impact on the Sioux culture and religion. One Sioux stated, “they are trying to erase our existence.”
If the land is polluted, the Sioux religion and culture would be deeply harmed as would their constitutional right to practice their religion.
There is an alternative to moving the oil through pipeline. Railroads can transport the oil, which is safer and poses a smaller risk of environmental damage.
The New York Times map below marks the route of the Access Pipeline in North Dakota: