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December 6, 2016

Cold, Hard Facts About the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests

 

President Obama has given new hope to a struggling protest movement—the Dakota Access pipeline protest in North Dakota.  

The protests started in April and have since gained national coverage as environmentalists, celebrities and even politicians descend on the area hoping for a photo op. 

Even though the company building the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, had obtained the needed federal approvals from the U.S. Corp of Engineers, the protesters and Obama have managed to stall completion of the project. 

But like so many of the president’s executive decisions, it disregards the truth, the process and the consequences. For example: 

A federal judge found the protesters’ claims to be false. As IPI has explained previously, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg considered the claims of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and in September dismissed virtually all of them. 

Contrary to the tribe’s claims, the pipeline builders and the relevant federal agencies tried repeatedly to contact the tribe, which largely ignored them. And the company made every effort to avoid disturbing any sensitive historical sites, modifying the route140 times to accommodate concerns. 

In short, the judge found that there was no truth to the assertion that native Americans and their land were being ignored or harmed. 

“Independent” federal agencies have become politicized. If President-elect Donald Trump wants to “drain the swamp” in Washington, he might start with federal agencies. The initial idea was to staff such agencies with experts who could provide independent, informed advice and recommendations. 

No more. The Obama administration has changed all that. When an agency doesn’t give the administration the opinion it wants, it pressures the agency to reconsider until if comes up with the “right” answer. Can you say Keystone XL pipeline? 

It’s really cold in North Dakota in winter. The Obama administration decision to withhold final approval of the Dakota Access pipeline has given the protesters hope and means that many will likely remain at the site to press their cause. 

However, the average January temperature in Bismarck is 12.8°F and the average low is 2.2°F. As it stands, many will be exposed to North Dakota’s winter. 

This is just the beginning. Obama’s decision on Keystone XL and Dakota Access has given environmentalists a new way to attack fossil fuels: protest their transport. Those efforts will include pipelines, but could extend to trains and other transport options. And it now includes banks willing to finance the projects. 

But the protesters have only been able to continue because of a complicit president. He will be gone in January, and the protesters freezing in the North Dakota winter may find an even chillier reception in Washington.


 

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