A couple months ago, I attended a protest against. the Dakota Access Pipeline, which was being constructed near my town of Ames, Iowa. As I watched friends getting arrested in nonviolent demonstrations, I had so many questions: does this pipeline really pose a threat to land and water?
With the controversy over the recent denial of the permit to cross the Missouri River at Standing Rock, and the requirement for the pipeline to undergo an environmental review, and with the prospects of efforts to build new pipelines after the Trump administration takes office, answering this question is as important now as ever.
My suspicion was that pipeline accidents are rare, but as I investigated, I found that they actually happen all the time. In the last 30 years, there have been over 8,700 liquid pipeline spills in the US, averaging nearly one every day.
One, in fact, happened recently only 150 miles from Standing Rock, where over 4,200 barrels (180,000 gallons) spilled into a river.
And the spills add up: if the 4.2 million barrels (176 million gallons) that have spilled in the last 30 years were counted as a single spill, it would be the third largest in history, right under the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010, when 4.9 million barrels spilled in the Gulf of Mexico.
A faulty pipeline has leaked 176,000 gallons of crude oil into a creek and the surrounding countryside 2.5 hours away from the Standing Rock protests in North Dakota.
The spill, which went undetected by the pipeline owners until a local stumbled on it, has spread almost 7 km (5.4 miles) from the site of the leak, and at this stage, it’s not clear what caused the pipe to rupture, or how long it’s been leaking
An estimated 4,200 barrels of crude oil leaked from the Belle Fourche Pipeline in Billings County, 150 miles (241 km) from Cannon Ball in North Dakota, where protesters have been fighting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline
Horrific scenes have been coming out of North Dakota these last several days, where the battle is ongoing to stop the Dakota Access pipeline. On Sunday night, police turned tear gas and rubber bullets on hundreds of unarmed “water protectors”, as those taking on the pipeline prefer to be called. They deployed water cannons as well, in temperatures well below freezing. More than 160 people were injured, and many sent to the hospital. As a result of the standoff, a young woman could lose her arm.
For those with a passing knowledge of the kind of tactics faced by America’s civil rights movement, the above might sound like blast from our more brutal past. As Donald Trump prepares to enter the White House, it should also sound like our possible future.
Every signal we have from the president-elect points to an administration defined by three core tenets: white supremacy, unprecedented corporate influence and an uptick in state violence. Aside from climate catastrophe, the result could be a disturbing and dystopian new normal, where episodes like the one unfolding in Standing Rock become all too common.
Here’s where to call, donate, volunteer or send supplies.
Protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline have been going on since the project was approved in July.
Hundreds of protesters have been arrested and demonstrators and police have accused each other of violence. Law enforcement has used pepper spray, beanbag rounds, a water canon and a high-pitched sound generator meant to disperse crowds. The Morton County Sheriff’s Department has described the protests as an ongoing riot and says it uses “the force necessary to maintain control.”
Sign the petition to the White House to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline.