You Need Oil to Protest Oil
In July of 2016, the United States Army Corps of Engineers approved an oil pipeline construction project to transport crude oil via 30-inch-diameter pipes 90 feet below private lands and federal waterways. Dubbed the Dakota Access Pipeline, it originates from the fossil fuel-abundant Bakken shale formation in North Dakota. The DAPL is one of hundreds of underground pipelines safely and unobtrusively providing a service all across the continental USA. It marks an investment and upgrade in infrastructure, as it runs parallel to the Northern Border Pipeline, which set the framework followed by the DAPL, when NPB commenced operations in 1982.
While delayed by destructive protesters encouraged by an unethical executive intervention over judicial authority from President Obama, the pipeline is mostly complete. Its route runs 1,172 miles from North Dakota to southern Illinois. The benefits of a pipeline are easy to understand, representing economic independence from foreign sources; economic stimulus by providing thousands of direct and indirect jobs, union and non-union; and hundreds of millions of dollars in local and state income and property taxes. It also relieves overburdened railways and the associated costs to grain farmers, providing the most efficient and an environmentally safer way to transport sweet crude over the current rail method.
Rebels without a Cause
Opposition to the DAPL is multifaceted, and the alleged disadvantages are at best not verifiable to questionable. On August 22 of 2016, 16 miles north of Standing Rock Sioux-owned Prairie Knights Casino and Resort, "[p]rotesters help block the construction sites at Cannon Ball, North Dakota. The protests are led by the Standing Rock Sioux, who say their drinking water is immediately threatened by the pipeline."
The Sioux tribe-owned casino has been allegedly discharging sewage from its own treatment plant into Lake Oahe, which is a reservoir. Self-proclaimed "water protectors" from all over the USA have converged at the lakeside construction site, half a mile from tribal lands – turned impromptu Burning Man-style rent-free campsite. It's a theatrical stage set for folks enjoying communal camping activities, the starry sky at night, and hedonistic indulgence in cultural appropriation of Native American spirituality by participating in prayer sessions to the sacred waters of life. Attendees rarely miss an opportunity to broadcast their heroism from atop Facebook Hill via cell phones comprising raw materials like crude oil and operated with circuit board chips containing gold. The gold for each chip leaves 220 pounds of mine waste that must be extracted from Mother and Grandmother Earth
The activists enchanted with their own perceived sensitivity to the natural world and those there to experience catharsis via vandalism are ironically disconnected from the link among the oil used to make their tents and fuel their cars, the pipeline they are protesting, and the oils they let seep into the ground once they cut fluid lines on construction equipment. They are also seemingly unaware that their protest organizer, David Archambault, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe chairman, is owner of the only gas station near the protest site. "Just so we're clear, the organizer of a protest aimed [at] inhibiting American oil production by blocking an oil pipeline is making money selling oil products to the protesters."
Those Who Cry Wolf and the Silent Victims
The facts worth noting are that the planning phase of the DAPL consisted of complying with over 40 steps of regulation – a year-long historical preservation review to locate sacred sites and artifacts and 389 planning meetings with 55 tribes invited by USACE over a period of approximately 800 days. In addition, there were 559 developer-led meetings and 43 regulatory hearings with local communities. No artifacts were identified by the tribe or were found during historical investigation, but the route was adjusted 11 times to avoid sacred sites. The tribal water intake will be moved by 70 miles to address pollution concerns.
On the day of ground-breaking, the Sioux claimed that the bulldozer desecrated sacred land. It had been identified as sacred just the prior day.
Righteous indignation flamed on social media for weeks as edited videos initially released by Democracy Now circulated: protesters breathlessly testifying for the camera, brandishing bloody scrapes they claimed were received from pit bull attacks initiated by private construction site security against the "peaceful protesters." Anon took the lead on a witch hunt, which was championed by keyboard activists against a young female canine handler – releasing personal photos, her work and personal details. It turns out that the protesters ripped through a fence to gain access to a construction site on private land. They brought children through the torn fence and proceeded to swing sticks and flagpoles in human wall formation.
A German shepherd was bludgeoned so hard that it fell to its haunches. It was hit several times, causing it to bleed form the snout. The photo of the bloody dog was used on social media to bolster the false narrative that the blood on the dog belonged to peaceful protesters.
Another false claim circulated was that of a child's face being badly injured by private security dogs. "It was kind of scary," Lonnie Favel told KFYR. "A lot of people are out here with their children. Accidents happen all the time with dogs, and people could really get hurt." The photo circulated was of a young girl whose face had been mauled by a dog in Texas in 2012.
Not in My Backyard
Native American tribes receive National Historical Preservation funding from offshore drilling profits yet protest a pipeline that doesn't run through reservation land. In fact, easements were signed between the DAPL and farmers who are the landowners directly affected by the pipeline route. Some farmers also opposed the project, opening up the possibility of eminent domain seizure applying to their private property – with standard prescribed compensation.
Adding insult to injury, the 3,000 protesters camping illegally on federal land have also trespassed on farmland. Doug Hille raises an important question. How much carbon have these pseudo-environmentalists prevented from being removed from the atmosphere by trampling farmland and preventing planting of next season's crops?
Lawsuits for Profit
Like many of those in economically depressed rural areas, the Sioux tribes experience issues deserving of national attention: high unemployment and a methamphetamine epidemic. However, the Sioux as Native Americans are uniquely positioned to use lawsuits as a source of funding, usually citing trespasses hundreds of years old. One such suit dates back to 1877 and, if reopened, could award the tribe 1 billion dollars. It could stand to reason that it was strategically beneficial to wait until ground-breaking to claim a violation of sacred land.
Vultures Versed in Psychological Warfare
Thanks to the Equal Access to Justice Act, the Sioux Nation are not dealing alone in the business of abusing the law for financial gain and applying the tactics of incorporating media manipulation, intimidation of stakeholders, and the successful pointing of useful idiots. "The goal is making the environmental regulators who work at these agencies 'feel like their careers are being mocked and destroyed' until they 'become much more willing to play by our rules.'" The environmental groups guiding the protest are masters of psychological warfare.
As always when directed to focus on sensationalized victimization, we should follow their fiscal motivations.