November 2017, Vol. 244, No. 11

Editor's Notebook

Pipeline Protesters' Motives Aren't as Environmentally Pure as You Think

B Gilbert, Test
By Jeff Share, Pipeline & Gas Journal Editor

This just in: U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled Oct. 12 that Dakota Access Pipeline can continue operating while the federal government reviews its environmental impact. He declined to vacate a previous permit even though in June he ordered a new study, ruling that the Army Corps of Engineers had not adequately reviewed the project before it approved the required construction permits.

In his latest ruling, reported by AP, Boasberg said deficiencies in the original review “are not fundamental or incurable flaws” and that the Corps has such a “significant possibility of justifying its prior determinations” that the pipeline can stay open.

Boasberg said the review “cannot be reduced to a bureaucratic formality” and will reconsider “whether [regulators] have in fact fulfilled their statutory obligations” should legal challenges arise after the review is completed, possibly by spring. He  appropriately summarized the case: “The dispute over the Dakota Access Pipeline has now taken nearly as many twists and turns as the 1,200-mile pipeline itself.”

No sensible person can dispute his decision, but rational thought was never part of this smoldering controversy. The developer and officials at every level seem to have acted properly. DAPL only became an issue when the well-funded, well-organized anti-fossil fuel movement saw that the pipeline would pass near a reservation and helped persuade the Native Americans that the pipeline could destroy them and their legacy.

The agitators connived with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which dressed up and paraded on horseback, chanting ancient prayers and banging their drums before trespassing on private property, all designed to manipulate social and news media. They found an ally in President Obama who took unprecedented steps to block the pipeline, which President Trump later reversed.

Despite serious acts of vandalism, the pipeline was finished and crude oil from the Bakken has moved from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa into Illinois since June 1. The protesters are long gone but left mountains of garbage that cost millions to clean up.

Which brings me to this news: The tribe held an election Sept. 27 and threw out Chairman Dave Archambault, who helped the protesters set up the camps that led to endless confrontations and over 700 arrests. He spoke to all who would listen, busied himself with press releases and legal briefs, even flew to Geneva to speak at the United Nations Human Rights Council. But how did this benefit his tribe, one of the poorest in  America?

New tribal leader Mike Faith admits the protest took focus away from other issues, including health care, education, elderly needs, suicide problems, illegal drugs and a poor economy. “We kind of neglected our own” by taking the lead on the protest, he said, adding, “We did what we had to do, but we didn’t realize we were going to hurt our economy that much,” as the state shut down the highway near the protest camp for months. The highway also was the main route for patrons of the tribe’s casino, its main source of revenue.

“People want to see how we can fix ourselves. We have to look at not depending on the casino so much. We have to look at enticing companies to come down here,” Faith said.

So, what’s in store of Archambault? Will he be offered a job at by its radical leader, Bill McKibben? Has he heard from Greens Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, who only showed up to cause mischief and get arrested? Will Jane Kleeb, the politically motivated director of Bold Nebraska, bring him onboard if the fight resumes against Keystone XL? Has he heard from billionaire activist Tom Steyer? Does Neil Young need a new drummer?

They don’t care because they’ve been preparing for their next battle, whenever and wherever it comes. That’s what they do. They use you up and spit you out when they’re done with you. Was it worth those 15 minutes of fame, Dave?

The Author


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