AS I SEE IT
By Neal A. Shipman
At one point in time, many people could have made a logical argument that the Native Americans on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation had a valid point when they began their protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline. They were concerned that the pipeline, which is proposed to cross the Missouri River, could possibly rupture and contaminate their drinking water supply. And they were concerned that the pipeline’s route could impact burial grounds.
Those are valid concerns.
But, the protests in Morton County seem to have less to do with representing those concerns and more to do with literally grinding the project to a complete halt.
And as the protests have now spread to other pipeline sites in North Dakota and other states, as well as being taken to Washington, D.C., the real motive of these protests is becoming more and more clear. And those people, who may have once sympathized with the Native Americans concerns, now see that the backers of these protests are radical environmentalists. These environmentalists are not only opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline, they were also opposed to the Keystone XL Pipeline, as well as all oil and gas pipelines and the development of fossil fuels in general.
The protestors, and the environmental groups that have been backing these efforts, have so far been successful in stopping the pipeline. They have gotten the courts to issue injunctions to stop the construction of the pipeline, they have gotten the Corps of Engineers and other federal agencies involved to agree to review their earlier decisions. And they even convinced President Obama to weigh in on the pipeline.
We all have the right to protest. And the President of the United States surely has the right to express his opinion on projects.
But to grind to a halt a $3.8 billion project that will cover 1,172 miles and cross four states after it has already been approved by hundreds of federal and state agencies at this point flies in the face of commonsense.
While people may oppose the development of the nation’s oil and natural gas resources, there are processes in place at the federal and state levels that allow companies to drill wells and bring these resources into production and then transport them to the marketplace either by pipeline, truck or rail. When a company follows those processes and receives the necessary permits to proceed, they should be allowed to do so.
Which is exactly what Dakota Access Pipeline did. They followed the rule of law. And now they should be able to proceed with the construction of the pipeline.
Granted, there are valid concerns regarding the protection of the Missouri River’s water quality. But those concerns had been previously met when the pipeline was approved. And a cultural review of the pipeline’s route did not find any evidence of Native American burial grounds.
Changing the rules of the game in midstream will send a dangerous message to all companies that are planning on building other needed oilfield infrastructure in the United States. If the United States wants to become less reliant on foreign energy producers, then it is essential that companies be able to build the infrastructure to serve that industry.
It is essential that the court system and the federal agencies that now have this project under review make their decisions as quickly as possible.