No Dakota Access Pipeline
Image by Ken Ross
The opposing lines next to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation have been clearly drawn. On the one hand, the pipeline company, Energy Transfer Partners, is nearly 90% finished with the project and is resolved to continue building as if there were no tomorrow. On the other hand, indigenous activists are equally and oppositely resolved.
How do we counter the power and momentum of the fossil fuel industry? For context on the Standing Rock resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline, read the full article by Lee Chisholm below.
What will you do to stand in solidarity with the water and climate protectors at Standing Rock? Here are a few options:
And join a teach-in at USM in Portland at 5:30 pm on 11/17: details here
2. Contact the Army Corps of Engineers (which fast-tracked the permits for DAPL and has the ability to deny the last permit for the pipeline to go under the Missouri River): call (202) 761-8700 or email
4. Travel to Standing Rock (Northeast rideshare board here)
350 Maine encourages you to step up in solidarity with communities on the frontline who continue to be most impacted by our dependence on fossil fuels.
#NoDAPL: KEEP IT IN THE GROUND
Reflections on the Call of Standing Rock
at this Moment in History
By Lee Chisholm
"It feels like a rushing current, and I'm beginning to hear
the roar of the falls over the precipice just ahead."
How do you counter the power and momentum of the fossil fuel industry? The world has just seen the warmest September ever recorded. That follows the warmest summer ever recorded. This puts 2016 on track to become the warmest year ever recorded, breaking the record set in 2015, which surpassed that set in 2014. Yet as our planet races toward the 1.5° centigrade threshold that was agreed upon by 192 countries in Paris last December as a point beyond which the world must try not to go, much of America sleeps.
What is becoming of the creatures we loved as children in bedtime stories? The polar bears and puffins are starving. Hundreds of species of amphibians are approaching complete extinction. Bird migrations are happening later—and differently—because of habitat loss. The cold water-loving codfish, herring, and shrimp, even lobster, are vanishing or moving away. Half of the coral in the Great Barrier Reef has disappeared; more still in the Caribbean Sea. Yet much of America sleeps.
Is this “economic?” The storm system of last spring that dumped 2 ½ feet of rain upon parts of Louisiana in less than twenty-four hours impacted 110,000 homes and cost between $10 and $15 billion in damage. Hurricane Matthew, which three weeks ago devastated Haiti and killed 43 people in the U.S., left four southeastern states with an estimated $6 billion in damage. Before the infants of today are old, according to the most recent study by climate scientist James Hansen, an estimated sea level rise of “several meters” could render wide swaths of America’s urban coastline completely uninhabitable: that’s not billions, but likely trillions, of dollars in damage. Yet much of America sleeps.
Native Americans Standing Together
So dramatically not asleep, though, is one big, important part of America: its indigenous people. All over the continent they’ve been rising. In Canada last month, 50 First Nations entered into a solemn treaty to collaboratively oppose any further expansion of tar sands. All proposed tanker, pipeline, and tar sands rail projects affecting native land and water will henceforth be blocked. And in the United States, the largest gathering of Native American tribes in more than one hundred years has come together in a corner of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, near the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri Rivers in North Dakota to oppose the construction of the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline (DAPL).
DAPL is being built to carry nearly 500,000 barrels of highly combustible Bakken crude oil daily from the shale fields of northwestern North Dakota along a 1172-mile route, under two feet of dirt and topsoil, to an oil tank farm in Patoka, Illinois. From there that oil would be transported to refineries in Texas through an already existing pipeline operated by Energy Transfer Partners, DAPL’s owner. (Some also would find its way to refineries in the East on oil trains and trucks.)
The tribes are opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline for at least three reasons. First—and foremost—is the threat to fresh water. The people draw their water directly from the Missouri River a short distance downstream from where the pipeline would cross it. Pipelines leak. (Over the last 30 years there have been on average more than 300 “significant incidents” of oil and gas pipelines leaking annually within the United States.) No matter how safely the pipeline company says it intends to build this thing, the danger of it leaking was the primary reason it was earlier re-routed, after citizen outcry, from a river-crossing upstream of the state’s second largest population center, Bismarck, N.D.
Second, the workers and heavy machinery operators burying the pipe disturb sacred burial sites and other areas of cultural and historical significance to the tribe. The desire to protect against such disturbance was the cause this September of an ugly confrontation between indigenous people and pipeline company security guards. The latter came with mace and snarling attack dogs. The former had no weapons.
Third, as Standing Rock Sioux Chief Dave Archambault put it: Enough is enough. The Dakota Access Pipeline’s threat to Sioux water and land is no isolated incident. Rather, it is part of a long history of racism, abuse, and taking. Native Plains Indians, after all, lived in harmony with the land (and the buffalo herds that covered the land) for thousands of years before being confined to a reservation in 1868 (less than a decade, coincidentally, after a drilling experiment in Pennsylvania gave rise to the nation’s first oil well). Known as “the Great Sioux Reservation,” in extent it may have looked “great” to begin with (for it covered vast contiguous portions of five future states); but it shrank. In 1877 gold was discovered in the Black Hills—mountains sacred to Native Americans—and the whole area was seized. A subsequent succession of treaties, unilateral acts of Congress, and government agency decrees (such as that which underlay the flooding of prime Sioux agricultural land to build the 1958 Oahe Hydroelectric Dam and Reservoir that now borders the Standing Rock Reservation) reduced the Sioux’s land to its present confines.
At this moment in time, therefore, #NoDAPL is not only a determined, courageous outcry against further environmental racism; it is also an eloquent self-defense for very survival. WATER IS LIFE!!
…Everybody’s life. Given the direness of the time, it is as though the continent of North America itself were rising up—the animals, the elements, the very being of “Mother Earth” rising and finding a voice through some of the land’s most ancient, most spiritually sensitive, most honorable, and most wronged peoples. In speaking out for themselves, they are speaking out for all of us. We must stand with them.
As 350.org founder Bill McKibben wrote last month in the “New Republic”:
“If we’re serious about preventing catastrophic warming, …[then, based on a new study requiring a recalculating of the climate math] we can’t dig any new coal mines, drill any new fields, build any more pipelines. Not a single one. We’re done expanding the fossil fuel frontier. Our only hope is a swift, managed decline in the production of all carbon-based energy from the fields we’ve already put in production.”Recalculating the Climate Math (emphasis added)
Over the last week and more, the opposing lines next to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation have been clearly drawn. On the one hand, the pipeline company, Energy Transfer Partners (having gambled last spring that it could begin construction of the pipeline before all permits and property titles were in place, securing the ones that remain in time to turn over a finished project ready to transport oil by January 1, 2017, at which point its contracts with shippers will expire) is nearly 90% finished with the project and is resolved to continue building as if there were no tomorrow. Accordingly, the company has rejected the Obama administration’s twice-voiced appeal to stand down pending an Army Corps of Engineers decision on whether the Corps needs to reconsider earlier judgments made under a permitting process which it, at the pipeline company’s request, had fast-tracked. (Other federal agencies—namely, the Department of Interior, the Department of Environmental Protection, and the Council on Historic Preservation—had tried but failed last spring to persuade the Army Corps of Engineers that the Sioux had a point in claiming that legal requirements of meaningful consultation and prima facie threats to water, public safety, and significant cultural and archeological sites made fast-tracking the permit inadvisable. The Corps fast-tracked everything anyway—hence all permits but the final one to lay the pipeline under the Missouri River have at this point been given out.)
On the other hand, indigenous activists are equally and oppositely resolved. Last week many risked arrest by moving out from a safe encampment to pitch tents and emplace blockades on land recently purchased by Energy Transfer Partners from a private rancher. The company responded to this move by having police clear the way so that construction could proceed. Dressed in military gear, armed, and using “sound cannon,” pepper spray, and beanbag bullets, the police arrested over 140 protesters, some number of whom were alleged to have resisted by setting fire to barricades and throwing things at the police. A tense standoff on a bridge, whose use was needed for the pipeline’s advance, was resolved only this past Friday morning when a tribal elder negotiated a truce, noting: “If we use violence we will lose.” Since then, there have been no more violent confrontations—but the reaching of the water of the Missouri River seems only days away, and a legal easement to cross the river depends upon the Corps.
At this writing, therefore, it is important that the Corps becomes persuasively aware of us. In letters, phone calls, and demonstrations at Army Corps of Engineer offices, now is the time to make our voices heard.
And no matter what the Corps does with an easement to cross the Missouri River, opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline will go forward.
How do we counter the power and momentum of the fossil fuel industry? For starters (this being the first day of the rest of our lives), we can STAND LIKE A ROCK in the middle of the current, following the example so nobly unfolding before us.