Native Sun News: Tribes fight another pipeline through Great Plains

The following story was written and reported by Talli Nauman, Native Sun News Health & Environment Editor. All content © Native Sun News.

Lisa DeVille, a member of the Mandan Hidatsa and Arikara Nation of North Dakota, is fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline that runs from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa, ending in Illinois. Photo by Talli Nauman

Tribes, members face off over another oil pipeline proposal
This one’s for Bakken crude oil
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News
Health & Environment Editor

MANDAREE, N.D. –– Anticipated destruction of natural resources, sacred sites, and family farm economy is triggering tribal governments, their enrollees, Native American non-profits, their allies, and rural people across the Northern Great Plains to defy the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline.

The 1,134-mile infrastructure project, also known as the Bakken Pipeline, would carry Bakken crude oil from the Ft. Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota across Lakota ancestral territory in South Dakota, through Sac and Fox land in Iowa to Illinois, according to the proposal by Houston-based Energy Transfer Partners and Phillips 66.

Leading the charge against it in North Dakota is Mandan Hidatsa and Arikara tribal member Lisa DeVille, who told the Native Sun News on June 22 that the companies are not offering to perform reclamation along the route, according to official testimony offered by the North Dakota Public Service Commission (PSC).

“The Dakota Access Pipeline will cross our land/soil east of Mandaree, jeopardizing the land/soil and our primary source of public drinking water for Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in western North Dakota,” DeVille said in a written statement entered into the formal record during a state pipeline permit hearing in Killdeer, North Dakota on June 15.

An Environmental Science Graduate of Ft. Berthold Community College, DeVille was one of three tribal members who urged the commission to reject the pipeline application.

“We have witnessed many pipelines malfunction in North Dakota causing toxic environmental impact,” she said. “Environmentally concerned citizens of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation oppose/object to the Dakota Access Pipeline Project,” her statement said.

Deville cited three toxic pipeline spills within the last year in the vicinity of Lake Sakakawea on the Missouri River, which bisects the reservation and is the source of drinking water for the Three Affiliated Tribes, as well as for other tribal populations downstream.

Among the tribes are the Rosebud and Yankton Sioux tribes in South Dakota, which have gained approval from the state Public Utilities Commission to intervene against the proposal in upcoming hearings.

The path of the proposed Bakken pipeline traverses the entire state of Iowa. Image from Energy Transfer Partners

The Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi notified the Iowa Public Utilities Board that the federally recognized tribal government “does not support the oil pipeline proposed by Dakota Access LLC.”

In a letter to the board, Tribal Chair Judith Bender stated that a major concern is “failure to comply with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act,” especially after a corporate vice-president testified in hearings that “he was not aware of what that meant.”

Bender said the project would run through aboriginal homelands, pursuant to several treaties from the 1800s “and will effect culturally significant properties of the tribe.”

She warned of contamination of watersheds, drinking water, ground water and surface water. “It appears that the proposed pipeline will cross every major watershed in Iowa. It will only take one mistake and life in Iowa will change for the next thousands of years.

“As a people that have lived in Iowa for thousands of years, we have environmental concerns about the land and drinking water,” she said. “As long as our environment was good, we could live, regardless of who our neighbors were.

“Our main concern is that Iowa’s aquifers might be significantly damaged,” she added. “We think that should be protected, because it is the water that gives Iowa the best way of life.”

She raised the specter of habitat destruction and affirmed that state law is not adequate to assure protection. Iowa requires a company be bonded for only $250,000, compared to millions of dollars cleanup of spills costs, she noted.

In addition, she cautioned that the tar-sand crude-oil slated for TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Keystone XL tar-sands crude pipeline could be put into the Dakota Access Pipeline if federal approval for the former is denied.

“It is a very real possibility that the Dakota pipeline could be a possible alternative way for oil companies to develop the ‘Keystone Pipeline’,” she said.

Indigenous Environmental Action (IEN), an international non-profit based in Minnesota also is intervening against the Dakota Access Pipeline in South Dakota. IEN opposes the proposals for Keystone XL, Enbridge Line 13, and Albert Clipper pipelines.

Dakota Rural Action, a South Dakota non-profit and ally of Native American organizations aligned in the No KXL Dakota coalition, said Dakota Access LLC “has begun to stockpile pipe in several locations.

“Landowners have also reported that the pipeline is stepping up its tactics to gain easements and threatening legal action even though they do not have PUC approval or legal access to eminent domain yet.”

Bakken crude oil is more flammable that other oil due to the lower flash-point and recent failures of safety around other pipelines raise serious concerns, Dakota Rural Action said in a written statement.

According to Dakota Access LLC, the pipeline would transport approximately 450,000 barrels per day with a capacity as high as 570,000 barrels per day or more – which could represent approximately half of Bakken current daily crude oil production.

The oil would flow through the line to markets in the Midwest and abroad through East Coast and Gulf Coast terminals. Proponents expect the line to be in service by the fourth quarter of 2016.

“Increased domestic crude oil production translates into greater energy independence for the United States,” and pipelines are the safest, most efficient means of accomplishing its delivery, the company states in publicity material.

Several labor unions and pipeline supply companies are taking part in state hearings to advocate for the jobs and income the project would entail.

The pipeline would “translate into millions in state and local revenues during the construction phase and an estimated $156 million in sales and income taxes,” Dakota Access LLC says. It would “generate an estimated $55 million annually in property taxes to the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois. These tax dollars can be used to support schools, hospitals, emergency services and other critical ongoing needs,” it suggests.

(Contact Talli Nauman NSN Health and Environment Editor at

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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