by Farah Sayed
The Dakota access pipeline is a $3.7 billion project to span from North Dakota to Illinois. The pipeline would transport crude oil in a more cost-effective manner compared to current oil transport by train. The project is led by a subsidiary of the Energy Transport Partners (ETP) but faces strong opposition from the public. As the building process advances, the pipeline is planned to cut through the Standing Rock Sioux Territory in Nebraska without their consent, and many have organized in protest against the continuation of the pipeline, arguing that the pipeline would contaminate drinking water and damage sacred burial sites. Supposedly, the pipeline does not enter the Sioux reservation but just north. However, the tribe claims that the patch of land was illegally taken by the U.S. government during the 1850s. Having already established themselves in the territory, the industrial project would invade their rightful land.
Similarly, the Keystone XL pipeline, a separate project running from oils sands in Alberta, Canada, to Steele City, Nebraska, is planned to connect with an existing American pipeline. Many environmental issues have risen regarding the pipeline’s effect on fragile ecosystems in the Sandhills region in Nebraska. There remains a very high possibility of an oil spill that would contaminate key aquifers in the region, ruining clean drinking water. The project also symbolizes the continued use of fossil fuels and abandonment of renewable sources of energy by the U.S. Although the pipeline could have benefits such as decreased reliance on Middle Eastern oil resources and lower prices for consumers, opposition due to environmental destruction brings the project under immense public and environmentalist pressure.
In 2015 Obama had rejected the Keystone pipeline to curb a reliance on energy that increases carbon emissions. Additionally, protesters rejoiced last December when the Army Corps of Engineers stated an alternative route would be taken for the Dakota pipeline. Recently, Trump has reversed both of those decisions, signing presidential memorandums to advance each project. The president’s numerous executive orders on other agenda have sparked much opposition, this incident adding to the pile. The Sioux tribe, among others, claim that Trump’s actions are illegal because of the entrance into the reservation. Even if his actions are legal, many see his heavy use of executive orders to be unconstitutional, devaluing the voice of the people.
Despite Trump’s presidential action to accelerate the construction of the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, protesters refuse to stop fighting for the rights of Native Americans and protection of the environment. In Dakota, many flood warnings and weather advisories have been issued, driving some protestors away, yet that did not stop others from across the country from joining them to project their voice against the projects. A rally was held in Salt Lake City, along with demonstrators outside the White House and representation at the Women’s March. Malia Obama and Shailene Woodley were even reported to have joined the movement. Protesters refuse to stop fighting until justice is served to halt the construction of the Dakota Access and Keystone pipelines.