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Featured Opinions: Dakota Access Pipeline

The Dakota Access Pipeline, also known as a the Bakken pipeline, would snake 1,172 miles through parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois, transporting nearly 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day from the rich oil fields North Dakota to a storage facility in Patoka, Illinois. The construction plan was approved in July 2016 by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Since its approval, the project has sparked outrage and protests. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their allies, the people most affected by its construction and the majority of those standing on the front lines of a protest that has temporarily halted construction, are fearful that the pipeline will contaminate the tribe’s main sources of drinking water. The sources are located downstream of the current route of the pipeline so a spill could irrevocably contaminate their water supply. Although pipelines result in spills less often than oil carrying trains might, the International Energy Agency found that pipelines still spill much more in terms of volume, causing significant damage and harm to local environments. The Bakken Pipeline’s route takes it through active farmland, forests, and across the heartland’s major rivers: the Big Sioux, the Missouri, and the Mississippi. It also runs through sacred Native American lands. The path it takes puts a lot of valuable land and habitats at risk, and a large number of lives would be negatively affected by a spill or mistake. In 2010, a spill from an oil pipeline into the Kalamazoo river spewed 840,000 gallons of crude oil into the environment. The spill led to years of cleanup and recovery, costing hundreds of millions of dollars. That incident was the worst inland oil spill the United States, but it was not the only pipeline-related oil spill. More than a million barrels of oil have leaked from pipelines in the last 20 years. Putting aside our anger over politics and looking at the danger of inland oil spills to our environment and economy, combined with the knowledge that this pipe would harm sacred Native land, should push everyone to take a second look at the plans and, hopefully, prevent environmental, legal, economic, and ethical disasters.




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