Standing Rock: Has the news about the pipeline protests been slanted?

To answer the title question first, my response is “I don’t know.” Most of what I’ve learned about the dispute between the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and the government and private companies over the Dakota Access Pipeline has come from social media, which has been universally sympathetic to the Sioux. They, and other sympathizers and Native Americans, are protesting an incursion of an oil pipeline near their reservation (and on lands considered sacred by the tribe). The reason: not only the development on lands considered sacred (but largely in private hands), but mainly that a leak in that pipeline could threaten the Sioux’s drinking water. For several months the Sioux have been peacefully protesting the decision, with the local police and company employees fighting back. It’s been reported that police fired tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and perhaps water cannons at the protestors, as well as setting attack dogs on them, all of which seems unconscionable given that the Native Americans and their supporters were engaged in civil disobedience, and could have been arrested without the use of these nefarious weapons. The use of everything but water cannons, which has been contested, seems undeniable.

New York Times interacting map shows the course of the pipeline, which runs from Stanley, North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois, shows its long course and giving a capsule history of the project and its critics (click on screenshot as well):

The pipeline, all but built, is meant to ship crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois. Built almost entirely on private property, the pipeline crosses ancestral lands of the Standing Rock Sioux, passing less than a mile from the tribal reservation. Tribe members fear contamination of their drinking water and damage to sacred sites. They are trying to persuade the federal government to deny permits allowing the pipeline to cross the Missouri River near their reservation. Here’s a short version of the map:

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-6-03-28-am

Because most of the social media I follow is Leftist or progressive, it’s all been sympathetic to the Sioux and antagonistic to the government. But venues like the New York Times have also published editorials favorable to the protestors (e.g., here and here). My sympathies, then, were all with the Native Americans trying to protect their lands and well-being. It was like going back to the Sixties, when peacefully protesting blacks and civil rights workers were hit by water cannons, tear gas, police dogs, and cops on horses, images that helped bring passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

I still think that civil disobedience should be met by the authorities with civil response, like carrying the protestors as gently as possible to paddy wagons, but now I’ve seen a counter-piece (granted, an op-ed) about the pipeline protests published by a reputable paper, the Orlando Sentinel. The Sentinel, while a conservative paper, has, according to Wikipedia, endorsed the Democratic Presidential candidate in three of the last four elections: Obama, Kerry, and Hillary Clinton.

The opinion piece, called “What those Dakota Access pipeline protestors don’t tell you,” claims that the intransigence of the government and pipeline companies were much overrated and exaggerated by the Native Americans. Here are some excerpts, all quotes from the article (as are the bullet points). Note that the article is by Shawn McCoy, an economist who is probably a Republican, as he worked for Mitt Romney’s campaign. Here’s how the piece begins:

With the help of celebrities and professional activists, protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota have attracted international attention. The shouting and violence have drawn sympathy from people who are hearing only one side of the story — the one told by activists. Were the full story to be heard, much, if not all, of that sympathy would vanish.

The activists tell an emotionally charged tale of greed, racism and misbehavior by corporate and government officials. But the real story of the Dakota Access Pipeline was revealed in court documents in September, and it is nothing like the activists’ tale. In fact, it is the complete opposite.

The record shows that Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the pipeline, spent years working diligently with federal, state and local officials to route the pipeline safely and with the fewest possible disruptions. The contrast between the protesters’ claims and the facts on record is stunning.

And its claims:

  • “Protesters claim that the pipeline was “fast-tracked,” denying tribal leaders the opportunity to participate in the process. In fact, project leaders participated in 559 meetings with community leaders, local officials and organizations to listen to concerns and fine-tune the route. The company asked for, and received, a tougher federal permitting process at sites along the Missouri River. This more difficult procedure included a mandated review of each water crossing’s potential effect on historical artifacts and locations.
  • “Protesters claim that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to consult tribal leaders as required by federal law. The record shows that the corps held 389 meetings with 55 tribes. Corps officials met numerous times with leaders of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which initiated the lawsuit and the protests.
  • “Protesters claim that the Standing Rock Sioux pursued meetings with an unresponsive Army Corps of Engineers. Court records show that the roles in that story were in fact reversed. The corps alerted the tribe to the pipeline permit application in the fall of 2014 and repeatedly requested comments from and meetings with tribal leaders only to be rebuffed over and over. Tribal leaders ignored requests for comment and canceled meetings multiple times.=
  • “Typical of the misinformation spread during the protests is a comment made by Jesse Jackson, who recently joined the activists in North Dakota. He said the decision to reroute the pipeline so that it crossed close to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s water intake was “racism.”He did not mention, possibly because he did not know, that the company is paying to relocate the tribe’s water intake to a new spot 70 miles from the location of the contested pipeline crossing.”The pipeline route was adjusted based on concerns expressed by locals — including other tribal leaders — who met with company and Army Corps of Engineers officials. The court record reveals that the Standing Rock Sioux refused to meet with corps officials to discuss the route until after site work had begun. That work is now 77 percent completed at a cost of $3 billion.”

The article concludes, “Pipeline protesters may have a tight grip on media coverage of the pipeline, but they have a demonstrably loose grip on the facts. The truth — as documented not by the company but by the federal court system — is that pipeline approvals were not rushed, permits were not granted illegally, and tribal leaders were not excluded. These are proven facts upheld by two federal courts.”

Many of the same points were made in a piece called “Standing Rock fact checker“, itself produced by a group called MAIN, which describes itself like this:

The Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now (MAIN) is a partnership of entities from the agriculture, business, and labor sectors aimed at supporting the economic development and energy security benefits associated with infrastructure projects in the Midwest. With the domestic energy sector in the midst of an unprecedented boom, the methods by which energy resources are safely transported from “field to market” have never been more important to our nation’s economic well-being, or to our pursuit of energy independence.

So MAIN’s contentions might also be questioned on the grounds of bias. But remember that the other side, too—the Native Americans—are pushing their own narrative. It’s when our sympathies are most engaged by such a narrative that we must be the most skeptical, because all of us are subject to confirmation bias.

The New Yorker has a more sympathetic article that, while not dealing with the issues above (and leaning heavily on claims of the Sioux), does note that the pipeline was supposed to cross the Missouri River near Bismarck, North Dakota, but was rerouted near tribal lands lest a leak ruin Bismarck’s drinking water. That’s reprehensible, for it simply moves the danger from white people’s land to Native American land.

I’m not claiming that all the points in these counter-pieces are correct. And I still think the protestors have been treated abysmally, as have Native Americans in general. I’m generally opposed to the idea of oil pipelines near water sources or ecologically sensitive areas, though I don’t know any other way to efficiently deliver fuel. But if you argue against the points raised above, I ask you to not impugn the sources, but come to grips with the “facts” that they adduce, even if you don’t like them (rather, especially if you don’t like them.) It’s possible that the truth may not be exactly what the emotive pictures on Facebook suggest it is.

At any rate, the issue may soon disappear, as the Army Corps of Engineers has ordered the main protest campsite (and focus of all the attention) closed by December 5.  At that time protestors will be arrested and removed.

59 Comments

  1. Posted November 28, 2016 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Our local NPR station had a program on this.

    One of the things I learned is that 200+ rail cars full of crude oil cross the Missouri River every day (on average) near the pipeline crossing site and within 2 miles of the water intake for the Standing Rock Resv.

    Rail transport is much less safe than pipeline transport.

    Seems to me that the Tribal concerns have gotten wrapped up with a bigger push to stop oil production in the region (Bakken formation in N. Dakota and Montana, plus Saskatchewan).

    It seems to me that the protesters have mixed up or misrepresented the facts.

    • skiptic
      Posted November 28, 2016 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      “Rail transport is much less safe than pipeline transport” – That’s a hefty statement based on what? Couldn’t one major pipeline break could be far more serious than a few spilled rail cars full of oil?

      • Posted November 28, 2016 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

        Here’s a summary from Forbes:

        The short answer is: truck worse than train worse than pipeline worse than boat (Oilprice.com). But that’s only for human death and property destruction. For the normalized amount of oil spilled, it’s truck worse than pipeline worse than rail worse than boat (Congressional Research Service). Different yet again is for environmental impact (dominated by impact to aquatic habitat), where it’s boat worse than pipeline worse than truck worse than rail.

      • Michael Scullin
        Posted November 28, 2016 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

        A railroad tank car with Bakken oil has already blown up in a derailment near Fargo. It is very much like a bomb, perhaps more like napalm. Considering that there are probably tens of thousands of miles of pipelines in the country accidents have been few and far between and more often than not caused by construction crews who neglected to call the local number for information about buried utilities. Here in Iowa there are still a few holdouts fighting the Dakota Access pipeline. Whereas people on this side of the Mississippi can and do drive cars powered by gasoline and heat there houses with oil or drive diesel vehicles apparently they do not consider that people east of the Mississippi might be entitled to do the same. Dakota Access has not been a good partner but rather has depended on politicl muscle to get the right of way. The Iowa governor (Terry Branstad) is very big on being business friendly and has been mentioned as a possible ambassador to China by sources within the Trump administration. What initially angered the Standing Rock Lakota is that the corps of Engineers moved the Missouri River crossing away from Bismarck where it was politically unpopular and relocated it near the Standing Rock Reservation. The rest is bad history. As the map posted by Ceiling Cat shows the pipeline crosses a multitude of rivers (including the Mississippi) and ultimately will cross the Missouri. Just where is up for grabs at the moment. The entire process could and should have been handled by proper negotiations. ND is now a ‘Red State” and the governor conservative. The oil and pipeline people have “gifted” various agencies in ND with substantial amounts of money. The New York Times has published three extensive articles about the impact of the Bakken oil/gas (mostly burned off) field. Check them out. They document the brute force of oil companies who also receive substantial subsidies from the feudal government.

      • Posted November 28, 2016 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

        Name a recent major pipeline spill?

        In a heartbeat, I can name three major, very recent rail car spills: Fargo, ND, Rowena, WA, Lac-Mégantic, QC.

        Trucks have many more moving parts and share the road with US drivers, subject to weather, traverse urban areas.

        Trains derail very regularly, many moving parts, share rail crossings with cars, traverse urban areas.

        It takes about 1000 rail cars, each a moving vehicle, to move the amount of oil that a pipeline moves. With vastly fewer moving parts and no vehicles.

        Is one big spill worse that lots of smaller ones (though rail spills (and fires) don’t tend to be real small)? I don’t know; but first principles should make a pipeline both safer and more energy efficient.

        Maintenance is the issue with pipelines; and regulations for that need to be enforced.

    • Posted November 28, 2016 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

      Most energy reporting has a serous slant toward oversimplification and popular myth. Pipeline reporting is among the worst. So many people are on the misguided bandwagon arguing that pipeline = climate change or pipeline = spill, ergo stop pipeline = save environment. But the oil still moves without a pipeline, probably using fueled transportation, and the oil still spills from time to time. Talking about trade offs and the realities of commerce makes for an overly long article that nobody reads. I also understand that the Sioux are not entirely unified in their opposition, but that’s another matter.

      • Jeremy Tarone
        Posted November 28, 2016 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

        Yes, and the infrastructure required to move away from oil is a long ways away. The US is still moving away from coal fired electric plants. Not nearly enough electric cars are being built to make a dent, and if they were a great many electric plants would have to be built to power all those electric cars.

        Nuclear power plants could fuel electric cars without massive CO2 increases, but those too are decades away and are harder to get approval for than either pipelines or oil refineries because of the hysteria against nuclear energy.

        Meanwhile the US population continues to increase, as does the electricity consumption of Americans.

        The loss of a single pipeline drove up gas prices all over North America and produced gas shortages in several states. The North American petroleum infrastructure is pretty much at a just in time level with little room for problems.

        Many on the left complain of money going to countries like Saudi Arabia, but are vocally against pipelines to move American and Canadian oil around North America. It will either travel via pipelines, or trains, trucks or get imported from Middle Eastern nations into seaports where it will still need to be transported across America.

        Here in British Columbia many are opposed to pipelines, many object to their very existence regardless of where they are or are planned to go. But that doesn’t stop any of them from driving motor vehicles that use gas, or using home heating from oil, or propane BBQs during the summer.

        Billions of people moving out of poverty will depend on them having (relatively) inexpensive energy. Many on the left seem to have the attitude that they have the good life (predicated on cheap energy including oil and gas) and screw the poor of the world who want that same good life too.

  2. p. puk
    Posted November 28, 2016 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Reminds me of the brouhaha surrounding the Thirty Meter Telescope protests in Hawaii where the opposition to the build was/is plagued with stupidity.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirty_Meter_Telescope_protests

    • Kevin
      Posted November 28, 2016 at 10:51 am | Permalink

      Hawaiian opposition to TMT was unwarranted, irrational, and emotionally driven.

      Spooky rocks and sea foam spirits can dement anyone.

    • Posted November 28, 2016 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

      It reminded me of the same thing. Declare a site sacred and deprive the rest of humanity of the best site for telescopes in the northern hemisphere.

      It seems like it gets turned into a show of respect. Do or don’t do this thing to show you respect us. The main problem being that the best compromise route for a pipeline or the best place to site a telescope in the northern hemisphere doesn’t include political considerations like how to show this or that group deference.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted November 28, 2016 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

      I would rate the telescope protests as far more frivolous, illogical and unjustified.

      A telescope has zero adverse effects and risks on the environment, other than possibly visual (if it is being built in an unspoiled, remote and little-visited location, which I surmise does not apply to that particular project).
      Whereas a pipeline does have real potential risks, as of course do highway, rail or road transport.

      I’m always on the side of people who don’t want natural landscape spoiled, but I get severely annoyed when environmental decisions get skewed or distorted by specious claims of ancestral ‘sacred spaces’. That is, when the modern self-styled descendants of the indigenous people demand that every bit of landscape be treated as sacred when their presumptive ancestors happily wandered, dug, crapped and tipped rubbish all over it at will.

      Certainly we should respect peoples’ heritage. Unfortunately there are a lot of chancers and woo-peddlers only too ready to take advantage of that respect (and prejudice the genuine cases) in cynical attempts to cash in.

      Disclaimer: I do not know where the Standing Rock protests lie on this spectrum.

      cr

  3. chris moffatt
    Posted November 28, 2016 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    As usual cui bono:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/why-hollywood-environmentalists-and-native-americans-have-converged-on-north-dakota/2016/10/28/007620c8-9c8f-11e6-9980-50913d68eacb_story.html

    Coupled with environmentalists who want to shut down all fossil fuel development anywhere.

    We know the dangers of shipping oil by rail as at Lac Megantic in QC and the James River spill in VA, for instances.

  4. Mark Reaume
    Posted November 28, 2016 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    I’ve seen some drone video of the use of water cannons on these protesters. It seems legitimate (although it is hard to tell these days):

    • SA Gould
      Posted November 28, 2016 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

      Too bad the tribe didn’t put on a better defense in court against the pipeline’s quite substantial legal team. Too bad that “sacred” grounds and “religion” never seem to be a concern, unless you’re “Christian.” And too bad that nobody gave a damn about the Standing Rock Sioux tribe *until* they started getting attacked by the company’s guards.

  5. Posted November 28, 2016 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    This is a general problem these days: Whom in the media do you believe? I know folks who don’t trust what they call the “MSM” (main-stream media) at all, others who read nothing else. Sometimes, I just don’t know where the truth is. I tend to suspect it is not what you hear when what you hear (as in this case) is all on one side. I guess you just have to shop around and trust sources which seem to have given good (proved?) info in the past.

  6. J.Baldwin
    Posted November 28, 2016 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Somewhat of an aside, my interest in the situation is the appeal to “sacred lands,” which reveals (again) the depth to which religionist/spiritualist thinking informs public opinion/policy.

    • Posted November 28, 2016 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      So, this is interesting.

      It hits close to home. My wife is a thorough-going atheist. However, her comment was (a while back), “they never would have done this to white people’s sacred lands but they do it to the natives’ sacred lands.”

      Now she does have native American heritage; but I think it’s the liberal bias working for the “good cause”.

      I hesitate to point out to her that she was totally against the Malheur occupiers but is for the Standing Rock ones — because she sympathizes with their cause.

      Consistency … perhaps not.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 28, 2016 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      religionist/spiritualist thinking

      There is a coherent distinction between the two? One that you could explain to a Small Furry Creature from Alpha Centauri who is still at home?

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted November 29, 2016 at 3:53 am | Permalink

        Farking link won’t work.😦

  7. Posted November 28, 2016 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Most of us do know realize the enormity of pipelines in the country. Map and article here:

    https://www.propublica.org/article/pipelines-explained-how-safe-are-americas-2.5-million-miles-of-pipelines

    I think that the analogy with modes of travel is good – pipelines like airplanes are much safer than rail and trucks, but when there is a catastrophe, it is often a big one.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 28, 2016 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

      I’ve got three pipelines within walking distance of me at this time. The safety of pipeline is largely a question of regulatory oversight by the government.
      Sorry to use what are swear words in America, and will be on the Echelon watch list the day after Trump takes power.

      • Posted November 28, 2016 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

        It’s maintenance. Maintenance is the key thing (just like with airlines).

  8. divalent
    Posted November 28, 2016 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    “the pipeline was supposed to cross the Missouri River near Bismarck, North Dakota, but was rerouted near tribal lands lest a leak ruin Bismarck’s drinking water. That’s reprehensible, for it simply moves the danger from white people’s land to Native American land.”

    Why is that reprehensible? Is it clear that they were motivated to do so because Bismarck people are more valuable than native americans?

    There are good reasons to locate things that have a chance of disrupting water supplies (or cause other disruptions) to places where the impact will be less, and I’m guessing that the impact of disrupting the Bismarck water supply would be greater that for the tribes water supply. (And didn’t you say they were relocating the tribe’s water intake to minimize it further?). If you look at other places on the route, did they just bee line it regardless of population centers and other areas of infrastructure, and only diverted it to the native american’s locale in this place? Or did they also route it to less densely populated areas along the whole route? IOW, is there any evidence that the native americans were treated differently than their peers in the class of “rural americans”?

    • Walt Jones
      Posted November 28, 2016 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      Bismarck has a population of over 67,000. The next town near that size on the Missouri River is Sioux City, hundreds of miles southeast. The decision to move the crossing downstream wasn’t likely racist, though the particular location selection might have been. Was there another option south of Bismarck?

  9. Posted November 28, 2016 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    I don’t have a dog in this fight, but it bugs me when someone–anyone–thinks the world should stop because they think something is “sacred.”

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 28, 2016 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

      Personally, I look forward to the day when some enterprising trouble-maker (with a profit motive) revives the Old Time Religion from Babylon/ Assyria. Along with the sacred temple prostitutes.
      Popcorn, anyone? Can’t stand the stuff myself, but for a fiht like that, I’ll stomach it.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 28, 2016 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

      “Give me that Old Time Religion …”

      • chris moffatt
        Posted November 28, 2016 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

        Druids? Stonehenge? Fooey. Wait until the great old ones get back; then we’ll see some real religion.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted November 28, 2016 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

          Chthulu 2020 – why choose the lesser evil?
          Sithrak tweeted that he has lots of spits oiled up.

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted November 28, 2016 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

            I just recognised the resemblance of that Chthulu-2020 logo and Dr Zoidberg of Futurama. Is there something Matt Groening hasn’t admitted to?

  10. Posted November 28, 2016 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    I coincidently was just having the bigger issue discussion on who do you trust for news anymore on another site. My conclusion is most people don’t even have the common sense, or intellectual wherewithal (present company excluded) to distinguish facts from fiction. And as more and more fiction for profit, masquerading as news, fills the internet, and as more, more people distrust all news sources, it will only get worse.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 28, 2016 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      Another site that I’ve frequented for 20-odd (sometimes damned peculiar) years has a local meme that “You read the F-ing article? You must be new here!” and it really annoys me. It’s always a refreshing sight here to see that people do actually RTFA, then RTF-linked-to paper, then think about it, then post.
      Sometimes I feel like a dinosaur. A non-bird dinosaur.

  11. Randall Schenck
    Posted November 28, 2016 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    Just to throw one or two more thoughts into this mix. As everyone knows, we are now and have been for several years into the deregulation of everything. This includes the railroads and pipelines, both transportation types that were regulated by the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). So while reviewing the safety records of these various types of transportation it might help to follow the deregulation of these transportation methods.

    Cheaper, better, faster is the name of the game and the customer service and or safety is in the back seat. One also has to ask, if Keystone was bad and turned down as an way to move Canadian crude, why is this line so good?

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 28, 2016 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      Different bribes? More honest bribe recipients, or more careful choice of who to bribe and how to do it, to ensure their staying brought. But that’s straying very close to “politics”.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted November 28, 2016 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

        So you are saying different bribes for different tribes. Sorry about that….

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted November 28, 2016 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

          And so you should be!

  12. Ken Phelps
    Posted November 28, 2016 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    I doubt that there are two contiguous acres in North America that wouldn’t be labeled “sacred” if the correct set of political/economic/publicity-hound buttons were pushed. Long experience in B.C. has demonstrated that the sacredness of proposed development sites, and the high dudgeon of native leaders, is entirely negotiable based on sufficient diversion of the resultant cash flow. The posturing of the utterly corrupt native power structure, and the bureaucracies that feed off it, should not be confused with anything other than politics as usual.

    Sacredness, which can be asserted without evidence, can equally be dismissed without evidence. The case should be pursued based on actual science-based environmental and economic practicalities.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 28, 2016 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      Sacredness, which can be asserted without evidence, can equally be dismissed without evidence.

      I’ll provide evidence to dismiss the sacredness. Just pay the airfreight for my copper-plated boots, and I’ll come over there, stand in the middle of the sacredness (ohh, that’ll generate a cat fight, just asking that question) and hurl curses and imprecations at the appropriate gods.
      Oh, hang on. Dakota? Is that prone to big lightening “cell storms”? I might need my silver chain mail and a weather forecast too.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted November 28, 2016 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

      That is a totally cynical and derogatory view with which I absolutely agree. 😦

      I would just add ‘and the rest of the world’ to ‘North America’

      cr

  13. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted November 28, 2016 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    JAC : The corps alerted the tribe to the pipeline permit application in the fall of 2014

    Hang on – what happened to the oft-repeated assertion that America is the “most litigious society in the world”?
    Two to three years from permit application to breaking ground is startlingly fast compared to the UK. Here it would take more like a decade. A single round of planning inquiry would take that long.
    When I was involved in trying to get a UK onshore oil prospect re-started (scuppered by the oil price slump), we were scheduling 2 years for the compulsory planning aspect of things as a minimum, and that was if we could convince people that we had no intention of wasting several million quid of our profit margin on fracking the well(s) – [details deleted due to non-public data]. After that planing decision “in principle”, we’d have to have submitted detailed plans and only then started the public consultation process.
    Two years from permit application to construction seems remarkably short.

    development on lands considered sacred (but largely in private hands),

    This is not a reasonable ground for a planning objection (but since Britain has an established religion, that’s probably not going to have an equivalent in American law. Which doesn’t make it a reasonable objection, even if potentially successful.

    but mainly that a leak in that pipeline could threaten the Sioux’s drinking water.

    That’s a reasonable objection. Which from the later comment about the pipeline detailed planning including providing an alternative water source, would seem to have been opened for negotiation. As jbillie puts it, “Seems to me that the Tribal concerns have gotten wrapped up with a bigger push to stop oil production in the region.” NIMBYs.

    • Posted November 28, 2016 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      There are many native americans (and others) who would say that the stop production *is* the goal, given global warming and the threat to the species as we know it, etc.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted November 28, 2016 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

        Which would explain the removal of the velvet glove to expose the iron fist of gov.us.com

  14. Posted November 28, 2016 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Another piece of the puzzle is the “anarchic” tradition in some Native American groups. In some of them, if the consensus doesn’t meet your needs, you are allowed and even expected to strike out on your own with whatever support you can obtain. This is related to the next point, namely the consultation. Very often groups (NA and otherwise) are simply told and asked to provide feedback, but not propose concrete other alternatives. (I have been to Ottawa city meetings where the “consultation” was: we’re going to do this, where do you want the benches?)

    In the case of something as profoundly impacting as a pipeline, perhaps the latter is needed.

    So I think the accusation of misreporting, as stated, is danger of misrepresenting a few matters itself.

  15. rickflick
    Posted November 28, 2016 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been in much the same position. Not knowing who to believe on this issue. My only high level thought is that any new flow of oil represents more carbon into the atmosphere which is what we don’t want. Stopping the pipeline may be a catalyst for reducing oil supplies which would be good since it would increase the price of oil and reduce it’s use. One would hope for a strong leader in the White House leading the way, but if the native Americans do some of the work, maybe that’s OK.

  16. W.Benson
    Posted November 28, 2016 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    The deadline for protestors to leave their main camp is December 5. It is probably just a coincidence that Dec. 5 is General George Armstrong Custer’s birthday.

  17. Posted November 28, 2016 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    December 5th is Custer’s birthday. Not that the Army would choose this date on purpose or anything.

  18. Jeff J
    Posted November 28, 2016 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    I really don’t care about ‘sacred ground’ or debates about whether a pipeline here is safer for drinking water than over there. It’s all small potatoes compared to the great work the protesters are doing to *keep carbon in the ground.* Means to an end.

  19. sponge bob
    Posted November 28, 2016 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    Better hope a train filled with oil never derails on a bridge crossing the Missouri.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_crossings_of_the_Missouri_River

    My water (and many, many others) comes from the Missouri River, in states downriver from where the DAP is supposed to go _under_ the river… something like 90ft under the riverbed at the crossing.

    Gotta get energy from point A to point B somehow, and a river crossing is just another engineering problem. To me, deep underground seems safer than an oil train derailing off a bridge.

    The snow and cold should clear the non-local protesters out shortly. Getting pretty good snow today.

  20. Posted November 28, 2016 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Jerry, I am very glad you have raised these issues. The story is much more nuanced that people have been led to believe. I do not support the protesters, and they do their cause no good by misrepresenting the history of the pipeline and the extraordinary efforts that have gone into trying to consult with the people involved. The protesters are more concerned with stopping all oil transportation as an ideological stance rather than a pragmatic one.

  21. Posted November 28, 2016 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    I am generally sympathetic to protests by conservationists against developmental projects (and I have taken part in some). I also agree with PCC that police have used excessive force. On the other side, I mentioned in Wikipedia the following sentence:

    “On September 3, construction workers bulldozed a section of land the tribe had identified as sacred ground in an amendment to the federal injunction a day earlier.”

    This made me think that maybe some of the sacred grounds in question gained their sacred status only after the pipeline was planned, and as a result thereof🙂.

    My overall impression is that the Sioux seem to feel chronically screwed up and are now seizing the opportunity to have their voice heard.

    • Posted November 29, 2016 at 11:48 am | Permalink

      I’ll take the opportunity to mention for those who don’t know – “sacred ground” is a very tricky concept in many NA beliefs. Sometimes, it means “all the traditional territory”, which, given that it was not *owned* as European-derived folks would understand, proved *very* confusing.

      In the area under discussion, I don’t know what the tradition is.

      For us who think that you should have a secular reason for a public policy, read “sacred” as “worth preserving as is”, because of appropriate natural features, historical significance, etc. I grew up going to the northern Adirondacks from time to time, and they aren’t *sacred* to me, but I would be very dismayed to hear if someone had proposed closing Adirondack Park and putting in condos or Pizza Hut. Or putting a pipeline through, since I think the leave it in the ground” has to be taken seriously too.

  22. Posted November 28, 2016 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    My concern with any pipeline project is always ecological. As several people have pointed out above, pipelines present some of the most extreme dangers to the local environment, although the likelihood of spills is much less than when fuel is transported by wheels. To me, I don’t find this argument convincing.

    Sure, the chance of an oil spill (pipeline or boat) an any given time is practically nil, but it’s the cumulative chance that matters. And we can be assured that – sooner or later – a spill is going to happen. Pipeline spills happen routinely (see here for example), and the amounts spilled are often far greater than the amounts spilled in even the worst truck or train accidents. We often don’t hear much about most spills since they happen in unpopulated regions.

    And that’s exactly why I generally oppose most pipeline projects (and tanker traffic). The ecological effects are too great, and guaranteed, given enough time. It is true that shipping fuel by truck or train is more dangerous in terms of human life and property, but I think those are fair trade-offs. I know that likely sounds callous, and I’m sure I would feel different (emotionally) if I knew someone injured by such a disaster, but the philosophical point still stands. It is our species that requires the usage of these fuels – why shouldn’t it be our species that bears the bulk of the danger?

  23. Posted November 28, 2016 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    There are a number of sources of information on the internet about pipeline spills. Following is just one:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pipeline_accidents_in_the_United_States_in_the_21st_century

    Neither pipelines or railroads are as safe as they should be due to lack of properly routine inspections and maintenance. It is highly unlikely that our government will routinely inspect privately constructed pipelines for the life of the pipeline post-construction. In re railroads,the federal government does not support maintenance of railroads as it does highways. Costs and the responsibility for maintenance lies with the railroad companies. Inspection and maintenance standards are variable.

    For what it’s worth, I think I read recently that Trump is an investor in the Dakota Access Pipeline.

    The transportation of oil by pipeline or railroad cross-country has led to disasters in the past and the more oil transported by such means, the more likely there are to be many more disasters.

  24. geckzilla
    Posted November 29, 2016 at 12:27 am | Permalink

    Kim LaCapria over at Snopes attempted a fact check on this.
    http://www.snopes.com/2016/11/28/what-those-dakota-access-pipeline-protesters-dont-tell-you

    Facts may be scarce all around the world these days.

    • Posted December 1, 2016 at 4:43 am | Permalink

      Thank you geckzilla and Snopes. Evidence, and pointing out the lack of evidence, will, bravely and mostly, win out against the millions spent on massive lying PR jobs.

  25. geckzilla
    Posted November 29, 2016 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Why don’t we talk about what this really is: A group of marginalized people trying to stand up for themselves being run through by more powerful people who are largely apathetic. We will forget them when this is over, as is our tradition. We know it’s wrong, but we can’t help it. Trying to find excuses like oh, but someone said they lied… all part of our nature.

    Here is a story about Sophia’s arm tissue being obliterated by police who pretend it wasn’t their fault, lie about it, and seem to completely get away with it.
    http://www.snopes.com/2016/11/22/standing-rock-protester-in-danger-of-losing-arm-after-police-use-force/


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