Why is this pipeline important to North Dakota?
Pipelines remain the safest, most economic and most efficient means of transporting our natural resources, and the Dakota Access Pipeline is crucial in helping North Dakota address some of its residents’ greatest concerns including relieving congestion on our roads and rails. This pipeline will help transport 470,000 barrels of oil, which is the equivalent of more than 658 rail cars or 2,350 semi loads per day! The reduced pressure on our roads and rails is important in maintaining our existing infrastructure, improving safety for motorists, and relieving congestion so agricultural commodities can continue to move freely.
The pipeline will also have many economic benefits including:
Furthermore, because pipelines are more efficient, it could reduce the transport costs per barrel by between $6 and $8. This could mean a potential $100 million per year or more in additional state revenues from oil and gas production taxes and ensure producing North Dakota’s crude oil can remain economical and help further improve our nation’s energy security.
Why was the pipeline moved from the route north of Bismarck?
Contrary to claims, the route north of Bismarck was studied but was not considered a viable option. Furthermore, it was never brought before the leadership or people of Bismarck. There were many reasons why this pipeline was not considered viable, including:
The existing route, on the other hand, is “brownspace” or land that has already been developed. In fact, the Dakota Access Pipeline follows the route of a natural gas pipeline that was built in 1982 and a high voltage transmission line.
Was the proper regulatory process followed or was the pipeline “waived through”?
The Dakota Acess Pipeline has been more than two years in the making and has fulfilled all the necessary requirements to be a legally permitted project. Over the course of the two years of planning, 389 meetings took place between the U.S. Army Corps and 55 tribes about the Dakota Access project. In addition the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe met individually with the U.S. Army Corps nearly a dozen times to discuss archaeological and other surveys conducted to finalize the Dakota Access route. This was confirmed by Judge James Boasberg, which is outlined below, and it has also been confirmed by Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault himself who told KFYR “That pipeline had every right to go through.”
After an additional three months of review, the Army Corps of Engineers recommended to Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy that the final easement to cross the Missouri River should be granted. This recommendation, however, was ignored for purely political reasons and was not based on sound scientific engineering.
Why wasn’t the tribe consulted about the pipeline and were cultural sites disturbed?
Planning for the pipeline began more than two years ago and included 154 local meetings alone in North Dakota, and 389 meetings total along the pipeline’s route, many of which 55 different tribes participated in. Based on input from a number of sources, the pipeline route was adjusted in September 2014, to shorten the pipeline by 11 miles, avoid buildings and other structures, and cross fewer waterways and roads.
Additionally, Energy Transfer Partners conducted two separate cultural surveys that covered more than 400 square miles to ensure that cultural sites were avoided and left undisturbed. Judge James Boasberg, the federal judge who handled the court case filed by Earthjustice against the Army Corps of Engineers, reaffirmed this in his ruling:
“The plotted course almost exclusively tracked privately held lands and, in sensitive places like Lake Oahe, already-existing utility lines. (page 13).
“Dakota Access nevertheless also prominently considered another factor in crafting its route: the potential presence of historic properties. Using past cultural surveys, the company devised DAPL’s route to account for and avoid sites that had already been identified as potentially eligible for or listed on the National Register of Historic Places. With that path in hand, in July 2014, the company purchased rights to a 400-foot corridor along its preliminary route to conduct extensive new cultural surveys of its own. These surveys eventually covered the entire length of the pipeline in North and South Dakota, and much of Iowa and Illinois (pages 13-14).
“Where this surveying revealed previously unidentified historic or cultural resources that might be affected, the company mostly chose to reroute. In North Dakota, for example, the cultural surveys found 149 potentially eligible sites, 91 of which had stone features. The pipeline workspace and route was modified to avoid all 91 of these stone features and all but 9 of the other potentially eligible sites. By the time the company finally settled on a construction path, then, the pipeline route had been modified 140 times in North Dakota alone to avoid potential cultural resources. Plans had also been put in place to mitigate any effects on the other 9 sites through coordination with the North Dakota SHPO. All told, the company surveyed nearly twice as many miles in North Dakota as the 357 miles that would eventually be used for the pipeline.
“The company also opted to build its new pipeline along well-trodden ground wherever feasible. See ECF No. 22-1 (Declaration of Joey Mahmoud), Around Lake Oahe, for example, the pipeline will track both the Northern Border Gas Pipeline, which was placed into service in 1982, and an existing overhead utility line. In fact, where it crosses Lake Oahe, DAPL is 100% adjacent to, and within 22 to 300 feet from, the existing pipeline. Id. Dakota Access chose this route because these locations had “been disturbed in the past – both above and below ground level – making it a ‘brownfield crossing location.’” This made it less likely, then, that new ground disturbances would harm intact cultural or tribal features. (14-15)”
Furthermore, Judge Boasberg also found that contrary to claims, the Tribe had multiple opportunities to meet about the pipeline, but “the Tribe declined to do so.”
“In the spring, the Corps worked with Dakota Access to offer consulting tribes an opportunity to conduct cultural surveys at PCN locations where the private landowner would permit them. This included 7 of the 11 sites in North and South Dakota. Id. Three tribes took the opportunity, and it paid off. The Upper Sioux Community identified areas of tribal concern at three PCN sites, and Dakota Access agreed to additional avoidance measures at all of them. At one of these sites, the tribal surveyors and the Iowa SHPO declared a site eligible for listing on the National Registry that had not previously been identified on Dakota Access’s surveys. See Eagle Decl., ¶¶ 32-36; see also Mentz Decl., ¶¶ 38-39 (describing his hiring to conduct surveys for the Upper Sioux). Dakota Access agreed in response to this discovery to bury the pipeline 111 feet below the site to avoid disturbing it. Similarly, the Osage Tribe identified areas through their surveys that they wished to monitor during construction, and the company granted that request too. (page 29)
“In summary, the Corps has documented dozens of attempts it made to consult with the Standing Rock Sioux from the fall of 2014 through the spring of 2016 on the permitted DAPL activities. These included at least three site visits to the Lake Oahe crossing to assess any potential effects on historic properties and four meetings with Colonel Henderson. (page 33)
“The tribal monitoring and GC 21 unexpected-discovery protocols also appeared to be in place for the activity that was permitted by the Corps. When construction is ongoing for such activities, Dakota Access allows archaeological and tribal monitors onsite to look for evidence of cultural or historic resources. Id. As of the hearing, construction had triggered the unexpected-discovery protocol six times. In each case, construction stopped until the state, federal, and tribal representatives confirmed that the resources were not being damaged. Each one turned out to be a false alarm. (page 34)
“The Court acknowledges that the map provided by the company does seem to indicate that the pipeline curves to accommodate the cultural sites. (page 36)
In fact, on this record, it appears that the Corps exceeded its NHPA obligations at many of the PCN sites. For example, in response to the Tribe’s concerns about burial sites at the James River crossing, the Corps verified that cultural resources indeed were present and instructed Dakota Access to move the pipeline to avoid them. Dakota Access did so. (page 48)
“At least with regard to some of these sites, however, the Corps did offer the Tribe the opportunity to visit the sites or even conduct its own surveys, and the Tribe declined to do so. (page 55)”
When officials from the Tribe did meet with officials, it was found that Energy Transfer Partners were willing to work with the Tribe to resolve any concerns:
“In the very next section, the [Environmental Assessment] indicated that Young [the tribe’s Historic Preservation Officer] had said in the October 2014 meeting with Dakota Access that the Lake Oahe HDD process “appeared to avoid impacts to known sites of tribal significance.” (page 26).
“Perhaps most significantly, Standing Rock Archaeologist Dr. Kelly Morgan met with the Corps to express specific concerns about tribal burial sites at the James River crossing (PCN # 4). Based on the information she provided, the Corps verified the presence of cultural resources at the site and successfully instructed Dakota Access to move the pipeline alignment to avoid them. Colonel Henderson also attended several meetings with the Tribe. He first officiated at a third tribal summit on February 18-19, again with Standing Rock participation. Then, he attended meetings with Standing Rock on February 26, April 29, and May 14. Through these conversations, Henderson committed the Corps to imposing several additional conditions on DAPL, such as double-walled piping, in response to tribal concerns about environmental safety. (page 28)
Safeguarding and ensuring the longevity of culturally significant artifacts and sites is of interest to all Americans. That’s why the Dakota Access Pipeline traverses a path on private property. And the Dakota Access Pipeline was routed to parallel existing infrastructure, such as the Northern Border Pipeline and high voltage transmission power lines. Therefore the Dakota Access route has already been under construction twice before. Designing the route to parallel existing infrastructure mitigates any additional impacts to the environment and avoids areas of potential cultural significance.
Will the pipeline impact drinking water?
While nothing is risk-free, the chances that a break in the pipeline would impact the Missouri River are very small. This is because Energy Transfer Partners took many precautions to ensure our water resources were protected. These safeguards include:
In addition to these safeguards, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s water intake is scheduled to be moved by the end by of the year. The Missouri River intake serving the Tribe is being switched to Mobridge, South Dakota, nearly 50 miles south of the current water intake and about 70 miles south of the planned Dakota Access river crossing making it unlikely the Tribe’s drinking water could be impacted even in the unlikely case that there would be a leak into the river.
Is this the only pipeline crossing the river?
The pipeline also crosses the Missouri River 14 miles upstream from Williston’s water intake, and it crosses more than 200 waterways across its route, all of which have many safeguards to help protect water resources.
But, Dakota Access is not the only pipeline that crosses the river. There are 1,079 crude oil pipelines that cross inland bodies of water, including eight that cross the Missouri River. Throughout the United States, there are more than 38,410 existing crude oil pipeline river and waterbody crossings.