Thursday, September 15, 2016

Jobs, economy, safety, protests, arrests highlight events surrounding Dakota Access Pipeline

Pipeline map colors counties in its route
The Dakota Access Pipeline has caused plenty of controversy and led to protests, arrests and the temporary halt of construction in North Dakota. The $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile pipeline is expected to carry as much as 570,000 barrels of Bakken Formation crude from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to Illinois.

Supporters say shipping by pipeline is safer and less expensive than shipping by rail or truck, Devashree Saha reports for the Brookings Institution. They also say the pipeline will improve the economy with an estimated 8,000 to 12,000 construction jobs and up to 40 permanent operating jobs. "The project is also expected to generate $156 million in sales and income taxes and $55 million in property taxes annually" for the four states.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, a reservation of 8,000 people in the Dakotas, "claims that the U.S. government approved the project without consulting tribal governance, something they are obligated to do, according to U.S. treaties and the United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,"

The tribe says they fear a spill will contaminate their main source of drinking water, the Missouri River. Environmental and climate activists also have expressed concern about spills and some say the estimated economic benefits, particularly the number of construction jobs, are being exaggerated.

In July, the tribe "filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for failing to address the tribe’s concerns and violating federal permitting law," Saha writes. Earlier this month "a federal judge denied the tribe’s request to put a freeze on construction. An hour later, the Obama Administration, in an unexpected intervention, ordered the Army Corps to pause construction on the project until it could revisit the controversial portion near the Native American reservation. In the meantime, the project is in legal limbo. The D.C. Circuit Court is currently hearing the legal challenge to the pipeline and the case could take months to reach a resolution."

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