#NODAPL: understanding the U.S.’ most controversial subject in 3 minutes

“We won’t step down from this fight. As peoples of this earth, we all need water. This is about our water, our rights, and our dignity as human beings.” In a statement released on Thursday October 27th, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe expressed itself on the violent conflict that is occurring in North Dakota over the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (or DAPL), an equipment which would aim at easing the transportation of crude oil to a refinery center located in Illinois, and that would cross the territory. The Indian Tribe is supported by hundreds of protesters, who are denouncing the violation of Standing Rock Reservation’s land, as well as its inhabitants’ wellness and culture. The situation reached a climax over the last few days: Voicing Realities sums up the DAPL’s main stakes and points of conflict.

  • What would the DAPL imply?

This 30-inch pipeline would be constructed on a distance of 1,172 miles and would cross four different States: North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois. The DAPL plans to rejoin two oil production zones located in North Dakota – Bakken and Three Forks – and a refinery located in Patoka, Illinois: this would enable the transporting of crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois directly, without using trains or trucks.

dapl-map-full
© 2015 Energy Transfer Partners, L.P.

Energy Transfer Partners is in charge of building this pipeline: on its website, the company estimates that an investment of $3.7 billion is necessary to complete the project.

  • What are the advantages of DAPL according to its supporters?

The main point put forward by pro-DAPL is that this new equipment would enable the U.S. to become more independent in its oil consumption and provision. Indeed, the country’s reliance on foreign countries is strong: the U.S. Energy Information Administration asserts that the U.S. imported 9.4 million oil barrels per day in 2015 out of 19.4 million barrels consumed per day. 88 different countries imported their oil to the U.S. – Canada, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Mexico, and Colombia are the main suppliers. According to DAPL’s website, “approximately 470,000 barrels per day” could be transported from North Dakota to Illinois – this number could even reach 570,000 barrels per day – , thus reducing the need of importing refined oil from abroad.

Apart from these benefits at a national scale, the project’s supporters underline that the DAPL would revitalize local economy: this new infrastructure should create 8,000 to 12,000 jobs, both on sites and in fields that manufacture material needed for the pipeline. The company goes even further and mentions the positive commercial consequences for shops, restaurants and hotels in DAPL’s surrounding areas. Energy Transfer Partners estimates that DAPL would bring “$156 million in sales and income taxes” as well as “$55 million in property taxes” per year.

DAPL partisans add that the oil would be transported more directly to Illinois, at a lower price – crude oil is currently forwarded by train or by truck –. Energy Transfer Partners mentions that state-of-the-art technology would be used, thus implying that DAPL would be a fully securised system.

  • Why are protestors opposing the DAPL?

The Standing Rock Indian Reservation, North Dakota, would be crossed by the DAPL. Its inhabitants consider the project to be a major violation of their land: apart from the cultural and sacred value the Standing Rock Reservation represents to its population, the construction of the DAPL would constitute a serious threat to their “public health and welfare” as well as their water supply and quality. Indeed, the Sioux Tribe reminds the existence of the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty, in which the U.S.A. granted to Indian Tribes sovereignty on territories located in South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming and Iowa and committed themselves into protecting these populations and their culture – this treaty appears to have been violated ever since, especially when gold was discovered in these regions in the 1870s –.

The inhabitants are gaining more and more supporters across the country: over 250 demonstrators are present in the zone to defend Standing Rock and its inhabitants. Protestors nicknamed themselves “Water Protectors”, thus underlining their fight to protect the Tribe’s environment and safe access to essential, qualitative resources. The DAPL opposition gains more and more visibility, especially on social media with the creation of hashtag #NoDAPL; celebrities such as actor and activist Mark Ruffalo or actress Shailene Woodley took part to the protests in North Dakota.

In a statement released on October 27th, the Sioux Tribe urges national and local administration to stop police violence against demonstrators – tear gas was used and bean bags were fired at protestors –. The report reminds that President Obama has demanded, as told by CNN, that Energy Transfer Partners should “voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe“. Energy Transfer Partners hasn’t satisfied this request; according to ABC News, the company stated that “concerns about the pipeline’s impact on the local water supply are unfounded” and that “multiple archaeological studies conducted with state historic preservation offices found no sacred items along the route.”

The Sioux Tribe warned: “We won’t step down from this fight.” Each camp shows its inflexibility: the opposition on DAPL appears to be less and less resolvable.

Featured image: Protest against the DAPL, St. Paul, Minnesota – September 13th, 2016, © Fibonacci Blue via Flickr

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