Environment | Opinion

Winona LaDuke: Bigger problems ahead for Dakota Access Pipeline






Protesters at the Camp of the Sacred Stones in North Dakota. Photo by Rob Wilson

Why is Canadian energy giant Enbridge buying into the Dakota Access Pipeline? Activist Winona LaDuke, a member of the White Earth Nation and the founder of Honor The Earth, looks at the company's problems and wonders whether the controversial is doomed:
The recent announcement of Enbridge's purchase of the Dakota Access Pipeline came as a surprise to most of us. For the past four years, Enbridge has told the people of Minnesota that the proposed Sandpiper route (Clearbrook to Superior) was essential. It turns out that was not true. Let me try to translate what I think happened.

Regulation: Enbridge cited Minnesota regulators as a problem. In contrast, there is scant regulation in North Dakota. That is painfully obvious. There are more lawsuits about oil drilling than active rigs in the Bakken (last year brought a record-setting 9,305 civil cases on oil, according to the Star Tribune). Not surprisingly, Dakota Access received quick approvals, and is only being challenged by tribal governments in North Dakota, with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filing a preliminary injunction Aug. 4. If the injunction is signed, the Army Corps of Engineers has to withdraw permits issued for the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Opposition: At every step, the company was faced with huge opposition from Minnesotans and tribal governments. In 2015, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Friends of the Headwaters, ordering a full environmental impact review on the Sandpiper, much more than either the state or company wanted. Tribal governments have intervened with strong opposition. Recent comments by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the proposed route called for a rigorous review, and noted that more than 180 culturally important sites for Anishinaabe people were directly on the proposed route. That is the making of a long set of delays.

And, Enbridge's Sandpiper faced a challenge in North Dakota's Supreme Court on eminent domain, in a case against farmer James Botsford, who contends that the Canadian company is not meeting a public need. That case would be heard this fall, and could set a bad precedent for the company.

Pocketbook trouble: Enbridge just lost big in Canada. On June 30, Canada's Federal Court of Appeals overturned approvals for Enbridge's $7.9 billion proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline, finding the government fell short in its obligations to consult with First Nations groups. That had to hurt.

Read More from Winona LaDuke:
Winona LaDuke: Dakota Access Pipeline Purchaser Looking Like Enron (Indian Country Today 8/20)

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