Yet another twist has been added to what has proven to be the strangest presidential election in recent memory; an arrest warrant was issued for one of the candidates. Before your hopes soar too high as to the identity of this individual I must say it was Green Party’s Jill Stein. Doctor Stein, along with dozens of members of the Standing Sioux tribe of North Dakota, were charged for protesting and defacing construction equipment at the build site of the Dakota Access pipeline. The pipeline runs through rivers, lakes, and sacred burial sites, promising to leave destruction in its wake.
Since we love our fossil fuels in Texas, it is no surprise that the pipeline is being built by a Dallas-based oil company called Energy Transfer Partners. As the plans for the pipeline stand, it will cross over Lake Oahe, a major source fo water for the Sioux, and various of their burial sites. Despite numerous lawsuits and peaceful protests around the sites of construction, the pipeline construction continues without regard for the impact on both the Sioux and the environment.
The pipeline runs from the Bakken region of North Dakota to Illinois and will carry approximately 470,000 barrels per day of crude oil (www.daplpipelinefacts.com). Although this project will mean economic growth for the United States in terms of lowered reliance on foreign oil and creation of jobs; it only perpetuates our dependence on oil as a fuel source. Despite these benefits for the nation as a whole, the pipeline poses a higher risk for the Standing rock Sioux Tribe and provides them with no benefit. The pipeline will cost $3.8 billion to construct, which in my opinion is money better spent on conservation efforts and alternative fuel research (www.daplpipelinefacts.com)
As seen in the proposed route (above), the pipeline will cross various bodies of water creating a huge potential for spills which will contaminate surface and ground water. These pipelines and the drilling activities that accompany them “have produced an estimated 31.4 X 109 gallons of oil and gas wastewater” (Lauer, Duke University, Environmental Science & Technology). There is a significant amount of people who live downstream of these drinking water sources. Due to spills, they are at risk of being exposed to toxic metals, and long-lived isotopes which make water unsafe to drink (Lauer, Duke University, Environmental Science & Technology).
The environmental impacts of pipelines often go unnoticed because they consist of slow underground spills whose occurrence is never well publicized. Unlike accidents involving barges or trains, which cause the very visible destruction of property and habitat. The Dakota Access Pipeline is just another addition to the network of oil transport pipelines that is slowly poisoning the surface and ground water sheds of the Midwest. In the future, the requirements set forth by the United States government in order to begin construction of a similar project should be more stringent. These should include a detailed inspection and assessment of the environmental impact of the pipeline that will determine if the economic benefits outweigh the detrimental effects of the project on the environment and human health. Stopping this project in its tracks seems like a fool’s errand, as discovered by Dr. Stein, since the current economic interests seem to outweigh any negative impact caused by the DAPL.
Brine Spills Associated with Unconventional Oil Development in North Dakota Nancy E. Lauer, Jennifer S. Harkness, and Avner Vengosh Environmental Science & Technology 2016 50 (10), 5389-5397 DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.5b06349 http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/acs.est.5b06349
Dakota Access Pipeline Fact Sheet http://www.daplpipelinefacts.com/docs-dapl/08092016/DAPL_FactSheet33-8_09_16.pdf