Letter: Chicanery employed in pipeline approval process

Mike Jacobs asks in his column (The Forum online, Nov. 29) "is there a way past Standing Rock?" There should be little doubt that what has occurred at Standing Rock this past year has been all about the-greater-powers-that-be desperately trying t...

Mike Jacobs asks in his column (The Forum online, Nov. 29) "is there a way past Standing Rock?" There should be little doubt that what has occurred at Standing Rock this past year has been all about the-greater-powers-that-be desperately trying to get past Standing Rock. As if in complete harmony, the Corps of Engineers and Energy Transfer Partners (parent company of Dakota Access Pipeline) have taken turns at coordinating their agenda.

The COE "grandfathered" an inferior vetting of the DAPL project by accepting an inappropriate standard for gaining permits to advance construction. By allowing DAPL - only 7 miles shorter than the proposed length of the Keystone XL pipeline - to gain permits on each of several segmented slices, one at a time and separate from the whole, DAPL was able to avoid filing a costs/benefits analysis, otherwise known as an environmental impact statement (EIS).

This allowed DAPL to advance construction to the Missouri River's edge without ever having to comply with the spirit and intent of the EPA for this kind of project, forcing it now to be deemed 'necessary' to grant the easement allowing them to cross the Missouri River. How could we not, since they have come so far?

The following are reasons for not allowing it.

1) RFK Jr. was gracious during an interview after having visited Standing Rock recently when he said DAPL used 'chicanery' in getting the project approved. The appropriate synonym for what they did is actually nothing short of fraud. Uncovering the criminal conspiracy that created this fiasco would probably leave us with little doubt that nobody is taking care of we citizens, that we have been abandoned by all the major players. For DAPL's role in this illegal behavior, they should be deprived of any and all ill-gotten gains and bear the full burden of all their present and future losses on this project.

2) Kennedy stated that an EIS for the DAPL project would have doomed it from inception, just as an EIS did for the Keystone pipeline. The oil is shipped overseas for refining - helping ETP to maintain their dominance in fossil fuels around the world while it captures a permanent footing for North Dakota oil - yet it returns nothing, nothing, in terms of oil supply to North Dakota or even to this country, and yet we sustain all the environmental risks and hazards. As well, DAPL creates few (i.e. 40 or so) permanent jobs, and the state's gains in tax revenue could never offset the spoiling of our land that has earned the reputation of being the richest breadbasket in the world, permanently exposed to toxins. Oil privatizes all the profits while it socializes all the costs. This is a project that should never have been.

3) There have been hundreds of oil spills in North Dakota over the years, and oil contamination of land is not new in the western part of our state: where it has occurred, the land is rendered unusable for years. This is because cleaning up after it is very difficult, expensive, and labor intensive, and for that reason it is actually rarely done. A former Enbridge Energy Partners' pipeline worker-turned-whistleblower John Boenbow revealed a truly unnerving reality during an

interview at Standing Rock when he revealed that covering up oil spills was an industry-old and common practice. It should be noted that DAPL's record of building pipelines that leak is well established, just as it is for all pipeline builders.

4) The Indians told the COE in a meeting in September 2014 that they did not want the pipeline. This reiterated the same position they had expressed two years earlier. Their answer was no, that they were opposed to the pipeline due to the fact that the proposed route crossed on tribal land, they had sacred burial grounds and artifacts located throughout the area, and they believed that their water would definitively result in contamination when - not if, but when - a pipeline leak occurred. A year later, DAPL began construction. The COE continued their theatrics, inviting the Indians to the table in keeping with the process required and outlined by EPA law. The law required meetings. And even though the Indians had given their answer, it is obvious that the COE turned a blind eye and a deaf ear as they foisted their 'hollow' process upon the tribes, generating invite after invite, having rejected their given answer. The COE had never had to respect the Indians, fully aware of having the upper hand. The Indians were ignored. Subsequent efforts can only be seen as attempts to work around them.

DAPL, for their part, proceeded to make various adjustments to where their pipeline would cross under the Missouri to allay the fears of the Indians. They even rerouted the confluence of water entry to the tribes drinking water supply. The Indians weren't fooled, however: this land was their land; once oil is in the ground, it travels through the earth's contours in any and every direction, and .always co-mingles with the water; oil spills always occur, and when they do, they are only discovered when oil finally seeps to the surface, long after the damage has been done, damage which is essentially irreversible. The health effects of oil contamination are real, many, physical and emotional, and enduring.

If water contamination alone were not enough - but it is - it is worth recalling that the Indians have no reason to trust the COE. The COE had already bungled a huge dam construction effort in the Missouri River that caused the flooding of thousands of acres of reservation land, resulting in the Indians having to completely vacate it, allowing the COE to "take" it. Fort Laramie treaties have repeatedly been violated by the COE, the COE "taking" their land and then selling it, creating some of the private land that DAPL boasts is their right-of-way for their pipeline, fueling a tidal wave of resentment that you can hear echoing throughout facebook on any given day of the week. Anybody and everybody can hear the Indians now! The single salient point to be made is that whoever owns the land, no matter the means by which ownership was established, bears the responsibility of preserving its integrity for all future generations. This includes taking care of our water.

5) There is an existing railway infrastructure which has upgraded many aspects of its operation to allow for safer oil traffic in North Dakota. With oil production having abated, railway cars now sit idle. Further, energy industry experts have stated that pipeline infrastructure in the state has been overbuilt.

6) Even though the COE advised DAPL to not drill within 20 miles of the river, they have proceeded to construct pipeline bedding all the way to the Missouri, and have quickly and secretly built a drill pad within a 1/2 mile of the river's edge that will facilitate boring under the river as soon as they want. Even though they do not have a permit to drill under the Missouri - the COE has withheld the easement that is required - DAPL has said they will proceed anyway.

The COE has not been present to monitor them or stop them. The courts have been useless. The Obama administration has been impotent. It is only the Indians who stand in the way, and they have been held in check by the governor and the police.

It appears from all the evidence that there is no law that the white man respects. The Indians for their part have been quite admiral. Apart from some who have been violent during confrontations, they have been dignified in maintaining a peaceful posture towards all this. When a White Big Shot says something or issues them a decree or a notice, tribal leaders have been quick to communicate their position. And these Indians are our fellow beloved citizens who are standing up for all of us - because we white folk have laid a path of ruin with our theft, our violence, ignorance, dominance, hate, guns, mistrust, betrayals, and now the 'black snake'. We dare not indignify them by expecting to stand with them, but we can support them by telling them we know they are right, that we know they have all our best interests at heart, that we know that they know what the truth is about this oil and our water, and that we're listening to them, now.

There should be no way past Standing Rock. "Water is life."

Rodger, Fargo, received her B.A. in 1973 from the University of California at Berkeley in Political Science/International Relations. After receiving her M.Ed. from North Dakota State University in 1989, she taught in the Fargo Public Schools, and subsequently attended William Mitchell Law School in St. Paul. She thereafter completed studies in International and Comparative Human Rights Law at the National University of Ireland, Galway.