Protests, legal actions hamper Dakota Access construction

By Patrick C. Miller | August 31, 2016

The Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) last Friday issued an order denying a request to halt construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline that would carry 450,000 barrels of Bakken crude from western North Dakota to Illinois.

In North Dakota, a protest effort launched by the Standing Rock Reservation Sioux Tribe that has garnered national attention and celebrity backing continued near the town of Cannonball. On Wednesday, several protestors were arrested after one man attached himself to an excavator at a site near where the pipeline will cross the Missouri River.

Last week, North Dakota Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley—a former U.S. attorney—met with the editorial board of the Grand Forks Herald. He called the protest “unlawful” because it’s taking place without a permit on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land.

“There have been hundreds of criminal acts, violating a variety of state and federal laws,” Wrigley told the Herald. “They include two substantiated cases of lasers being pointed into the cockpits of aircraft coming over. Those are life-threatening federal crimes, and they're being investigated right now.”

He also said that hundreds of protesters—including children—on and next to State Highway 1806 created “a complicated and an extremely dangerous situation.”

At the request of Dakota Access LLC, the company building the pipeline, a federal judge earlier this month issued a temporary restraining order against some members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe from unlawfully interfering with the pipeline’s construction. The judge is expected to make a final decision within the next two weeks.

In addition, the non-profit environmental organization Earth Justice has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Standing Rock Sioux in the Washington, D.C., federal district court. It contends that the pipeline would pass under the Missouri River a half a mile upstream of the tribe’s reservation boundary, threatening the drinking water and impacting areas of cultural significance, including sacred sites and burial grounds.

Landowners in Iowa who filed lawsuits challenging the use of eminent domain to seize farm property to construct the pipeline asked the Polk County District Court to halt work until the lawsuits were decided. On Aug. 22, a judge the denied the motion while noting that the IUB had the authority to issue an emergency stay. However, after hearing arguments from both sides, the board denied a motion for an emergency stay.

Once completed, the $3.8 billion, 1,168-mile-long Dakota Access Pipeline will carry up to 570,000 barrels of Bakken crude from western North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa before terminating at Patoka, Illinois. From there, shippers will be able to access multiple markets, including the Midwest, East Coast and Gulf Coast regions.

Commenting on the situation Tuesday, Jack Gerard, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, said polls show that a large majority of American voters support the production of domestic energy resources.

“I think this is a relatively small group of people who have an outsized voice who have a fundamental agenda that’s inconsistent with where the American voter is,” he noted. Gerard added that low energy prices save drivers an average of $500 a year and households an average of $1,300 annually.

“It’s really through this infrastructure that has allowed us to become the world’s leading producer of oil and natural gas that’s now driven our carbon emissions to a 20-year low,” he explained. “It’s important to really look at the drivers or motivation behind some of those who are now engaged in trying to stop these infrastructure projects, be it the Dakota (Access) Pipeline or others across the country. Their fundamental view is that we should not have nor transport these reliable, affordable, cleaner-burning forms of energy.”

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PAUSE, People of Albany United for Safe Energy
PAUSE is a grassroots group of individuals who have come together to promote safe, sustainable energy and fight for environmental justice. We engage the greater public to stop the fossil fuel industry’s assault on the people of Albany and our environment.