The untouched vistas of the Northern Great Plains are a national treasure and are sacred to American Indians. But more than memories of home on the range are encouraging activists to block the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The resistance is part of a relentless environmentalist campaign to shut down critical upgrades of the nation’s energy infrastructure. Weighing the interests of the few against the needs of the many, there is only one clear conclusion: The pipeline must go through.
The $3.7 billion pipeline, stretching 1,134 miles from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota southeast to Illinois, has triggered protests by members of the Standing Rock Sioux who say that the pipeline would deface ancestral artifacts and threaten vital sources of water. Sioux spines have been stiffened by the same sort of “keep it in the ground” arguments that anti-growth activists used to persuade President Obama to kill the Keystone XL pipeline two years ago. The spray-painting of anti-pipeline graffiti on the North Dakota pillar at the National World War II Memorial in Washington links radical environmentalism with angry anti-Americanism. It’s the unmistakable calling card of the destructive left.
The narrative of the man of the land standing up to the uncaring corporate giant is a popular one, but it doesn’t fit the facts of this case. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and oil company partners participating in the pipeline construction consulted with 55 separate tribes and made 140 changes in the route. The final route runs no closer than several miles from the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.
But the tribe refused to meet pipeline representatives and instead petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department to require the Army Engineers to conduct a further environmental impact study. The corps fast-tracked the process and gave the project approval last July. Construction proceeded until protesters blocked construction machinery, prompting the arrest of 400 sometimes violent protesters.
Ever the community activist, President Obama early this month undermined his own regulatory authorities with a provocative hint: “The Army Corps is examining whether there are ways to reroute this pipeline.” If permits can be torn up at will, development becomes a risky business. The United Nations is ever eager to butt into places where it has no business. “The U.S. authorities should fully protect and facilitate the right to freedom of peaceful assembly of indigenous peoples, which plays a key role in empowering their ability to claim other rights,” said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, a U.N. advocate for the rights of indigenous people.
Forgotten amid the turmoil are the rights of 320 million U.S. citizens to engage in lawful commerce. The 30-inch underground pipeline is designed to carry nearly a half-million barrels of crude oil a day to the nation’s heartland. With no pipeline the oil will still be transported, but by 700 tanker rail cars per day, traveling above ground on a more perilous route.
To the radical left, oil is merely evil black goo that threatens to mar the blue skies and green fields of Utopia. To the rest of us it’s the blood of economic progress, without which the American dream would wither and die. Unbroken expanses of wind-swept prairie are the stuff of precious memories for the noble Indian, and indeed, all for Americans who have driven across or flown above the Great Plains. A buried steel tube carrying energy to a needy nation won’t despoil the landscape.