I, for one, was surprised when I heard that the Dakota Access Pipeline would be rerouted. It feels like the first time an oil company has had to bow down to a protest. But is the conflict at Standing Rock really over?
What started as a small unrest by the Native American Sioux tribe of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation turned into a national outcry. People from all states flocked to Standing Rock to protest the pipeline going through Lake Oahe, the reservation’s main source of water.
I commend the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for blocking the pipeline and forcing the company, Energy Transfer Partners, to seek alternate routes. But even though tribal leaders have stressed that protesters can go home, some say that they’re staying until the pipeline is scrapped altogether.
In many ways, this is just one victory in a much larger war. The final decision about the pipeline will likely be decided by the incoming Trump administration, which is probably why protesters are staying. Trump is all about energy and at one point claimed, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”
Now Trump seems to be wavering from his original stance. Even Al Gore, king of the climate activists, spoke enthusiastically about the climate conversation he had with Trump.
At this point, with Trump as president and a majority of Republican House of Representatives and Congress members, we probably haven’t heard the last of the Standing Rock protests.
Then there’s the question of why we are even still building pipelines if they are so bad for the environment? According to federal data by the Associated Press, the number of significant pipeline accidents has gone up by 60 percent since 2009, as U.S. crude oil production has gone up. Since 1995, there’s been more than 2,000 significant pipeline accidents according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
On top of that, petroleum products take a large part of the blame for the climate change crisis. The Standing Rock protesters may have not completely realized it, but this could simply be the tip of the iceberg; national attention is now being brought to just how bad pipelines are.
The European country of Slovenia recently passed a law, making access to drinkable water a constitutional right. Slovenia is widely recognized as one of the most environmentally conscious countries in the world.
Water is something that every human literally cannot live without, it almost seems silly that a country should have to put it in their laws that access to it is a right. Yet, 15 other countries have also included it in their law books. Meanwhile Flint, Michigan, discovered lead in its water within the last two years.
Water in general is becoming more and more valuable as certain areas in the world are simply running out. World leaders in the near future will be searching for answers to the water depletion question.
The last thing we need is for pipelines to be contaminating the few clean water sources we do have. Slovenia’s prime minister called clean water “the 21st century’s liquid gold.”
The Standing Rock protests will probably not have as much press coverage as they did these last few months, but President Obama really only managed to delay the decision about the pipeline; Trump and his administration could easily renew the push to build it.
Trump recently put Scott Pruitt in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt is an avid climate change denier.
The worst of the conflict over oil vs. sustainability and clean water vs. fast energy is likely yet to come.
Elliot Weld can be contacted at Eweld@kscequinox.com