Port: Let’s hope the anti-pipeline activists don’t set any fires this time

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Rob Port
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MINOT, N.D. — North Dakota’s Public Service Commission will be holding a hearing in Emmons County this week concerning a proposed expansion of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The capacity would roughly double to more than 1 million barrels per day.

There is a large turnout expected from both supporters and critics of the pipeline.

What many North Dakotans fear is the violence and vandalism on display during the demonstrations against the pipeline in 2016 and 2017.

In that widespread apprehension, we see a wound the Sioux tribe from Standing Rock has inflicted upon their credibility.


Their voices are essential in the debate over infrastructure like DAPL. Taken at face value, their concern for the land and water of this region is both pragmatic and spiritual.

Unfortunately, in 2016, the tribe decided to hitch its wagon to political zealots who came to our state in an attempt to derail the construction of the pipeline with chaos.

Those of us who want to take Standing Rock seriously are stuck trying to line up the tribe’s expressed environmentalism with the estimated 2.4 million pounds of trash that were carted away from the protest campsite in some 835 roll-off dumpsters.

During the clean-up, Gov. Doug Burgum decried the “unbelievable amounts of trash and garbage and human waste” left behind.

It takes some high-octane hypocrisy for a group of people who claim to be environmentalists to leave behind that kind of a mess.

But then, hypocrisy is what we have to expect. After all, every single anti-pipeline activist uses petroleum products like gasoline, and yet have committed themselves to (at times violent) opposition to the safest possible way to transport petroleum.

If the anti-DAPL protesters block this expansion, the oil which would have gone in the pipeline will likely ship by rail.

According to a study by the Fraser Institute in Canada , oil pipelines were about 4.5 times less likely than oil trains to have an accident. What’s more, 16% of pipeline incidents resulted in no spill at all. About 73% of incidents resulted in minimal spills, and 80% of incidents occurred not along the pipeline itself but at a facility such as a pump station where measures are in place to contain spills.


In the ten year window the study looked at, 99% of the incidents they measured had zero environmental impact.

Pipelines aren’t perfect. The Keystone pipeline just dumped a few hundred thousand gallons of oil into a field in northeastern North Dakota.

Yet pipelines are still the best way to transport a product every one of us is using every day.

The activists dream of a day when we don’t use oil. “The era of fossil fuels must end,” said Phyllis Young, a Standing Rock activist, is quoted as saying in a press release about the upcoming hearing.

Perhaps one day the oil era will end. When it does, it should be because we’ve found a source of energy that can compete with oil in terms of reliability and price. Not because of politics.

Rob Port, founder of, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Listen to his Plain Talk Podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RobPort.

Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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