Dakota Access Pipeline

The construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline has been a bone of contention that has pitted the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and environmental activists against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Bowe and Trotter). According to the environmental impact access report by the tribe and independent agencies, the proposed 1,200 mile pipeline presents human and environmental dangers. The pipeline would transport hydraulically fractured crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields to connect with other pipelines in Illinois. The new route passes through the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, Lake Oahe, Lake Sakakawea’s tributaries, the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. On 25 March 2020, the Sioux Tribe got some reprieve when a federal court granted its request to strike down several federal permits for the Dakota Access Pipeline (Bowe and Trotter).

The tussle between the Sioux tribe and DAPL presents a classic example of large corporations putting profits ahead of environmental conservation efforts. The aggrieved parties who bear the blunt of the adverse environmental effects are largely marginalized groups like in this case, the Sioux Tribe.  It is interesting to note that a large oil corporation can overlook serious environmental concerns like oil spillage into lakes and rivers, and potential adverse health ramifications on the residents. This means that corporations are far behind in realizing the sustainable developments goals that call on corporations to engage in sustainable production, and to be mindful of life on land and under water. Another sustainable goal that wasn’t taken into consideration in this case was the health of the community.

Other challenges that emerged in this environment class action lawsuit that are also common in other similar cases are poor media coverage and lack of political goodwill. Corporations are able to use their financial muscle to get national and local government support for their projects. The police were employed to harass and arrest peaceful protestors. At one point, the governor called for the arrest of environmental activists who were mobilizing protestors. Also, the case received little media coverage, and hardly any mainstream media outlet ran with the story. Protestors relied on social media channels for their publicity efforts that eventually picked by big media outlets. When the journalists arrived, they had to grapple with logistic problems and poor telecommunication network coverage.  All these highlighted challenges show the need to allocate more resources towards environmental conservation efforts.