Piping up Trouble

A take on the North Dakota Access Pipeline protests post-election

The North Dakota Access Pipeline has been in the news recently for its controversial construction and the effect it could have on a Native American reservation. The pipeline is 1,172 miles and spans across four states. It’s expected to tap into 7.4 billion barrels of undiscovered oil, and would shuttle 470,000 gallons of crude oil a day. In recent weeks, the construction of the pipeline has been protested by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. This has prompted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reconsider continuing the pipeline. Famous faces such as Shailene Woodley have been protesting in North Dakota since August. She, along with the Sioux tribe, claim that the pipeline will encroach upon the Sioux tribe’s traditions. They also state that building the pipeline will disrupt and destroy sites of great historical, religious and cultural significance.

Many members of the tribe fear for possible water contamination since their only source of drinking water is a few miles outside the pipeline. Environmentalists also argue that this pipeline will fuel climate change, and that the United States should find alternative sources of energy. On the other hand, some argue that this is actually a safer and more environmentally friendly way of transporting oil, as it would not rely on cargo trains to transport the oil. The other pros are that the establishment of the pipeline could engender an economic boom by creating more jobs. It would also decrease dependence on foreign oil, and free up railways to transport other forms of cargo.

The protests have been fueled and supported by over 30 groups across the country. Protests are even occurring in Kansas City. The current halt of the pipeline has the Sioux tribe and other protesters pleased, as they believe that people are finally listening and paying attention to the negative effects of the pipeline. However, many energy companies are now stating that the government is acting outside the law by halting the progress of the pipeline. Many also fear that the future Trump presidency will be the determining factor in whether the pipeline is finished. Protesters believe that the new presidency will be a negative turning point in the fight against the establishment of the pipeline, as Trump has endorsed energy companies and pushed for the United States to have less dependency on foreign oil.

The controversy has been fueled by violence and arrests. Shailene Woodley’s arrest occurred several weeks ago, bringing even more attention to the issue. For the 16 million Americans living down-river from the pipeline, the fruition of the pipeline brings more negative consequences than gains. However, this issue has brought attention to the importance of community. Many different native tribes are coming together to fight the establishment of this pipeline and fighting for what they believe is right. This spectacle has raised the question of importance: Is it more important to build something with great economic impact and potentially jeopardize the lifestyle of a group of native people, or respect the rights, well being, health and traditions of the Sioux tribe?

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