Last month, the Army Corps of Engineers, pursuant to political pressure, reversed its prior decision and denied the final permit needed to complete construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The pretext: that the pipeline company, after years of planning and reliance on the U.S. government’s decisions and representations to the courts, should explore alternate routes. The announcement puts politics over the rule of law. When Donald Trump enters the White House, he should quickly reverse this political decision and allow construction to resume.
The pipeline, which passes near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, provoked sharp dissent from Indian leaders worried about its potential effect on water supplies and sacred Indian land.
The Center for Individual Freedom (CFIF) has sent a number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests seeking information on communications with Jodi Gillette regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline. Gillette, a former advisor to President Obama and the sister of the David Archambault, the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, has played a leading role in the misguided efforts to derail the multibillion dollar pipeline project.
In a statement, Timothy Lee, CFIF’s Senior Vice President of Legal and Public Affairs, expressed concern about the lack of transparency and potential conflicts of interests related to the Army Corps’ decision to indefinitely delay a federal easement for the pipeline.
“There have been a lot of rumors about the backroom dealings that led to the Administration’s decision to not issue the final easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline,” Lee said. “We would hope that the self-purported ‘most transparent Administration in history’ would provide the American people with the background and information that went into this important decision to halt an infrastructure project that had already been approved and was more than 90 percent complete.”
The requests, which were sent to the Departments of Interior, Justice and Energy, as well as the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Army Corps of Engineers, outline CFIF’s concerns about improper influence over the Obama administration’s actions:
There is growing concern about the relationship between Dave Archambault II’s sister, Jodi Gillette, and the Obama Administration. Mr. Archambault is the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (SRST) and a critic of the project. Ms. Gillette is a former senior advisor to the President and Secretary of the Interior, and is currently a lobbyist on behalf of the Standing Rock Sioux with Sonosky, Chambers, Chambers, Endreson & Perry, LLP. We seek to ensure that Mr. Archambault and Ms. Gillette haven’t wielded improper influence over the Administration’s policies that have resulted in delays in the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline project.
I request access to and copies of all records since February 1, 2016, related in any way to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and Jodi Gillette. This request includes, but is not limited to, all emails, other correspondence, correspondence logs, records of meetings, records of appointments and visitor logs.
CFIF is currently reviewing other potential FOIA requests on the matter.
A recent InsideSources article highlights a tribal meeting regarding the move of the encampments from the flood zone of the Cannonball and Missouri River. Once snows begin to melt in the spring, the camp is threatened by floodwaters at the confluence of the rivers, further demonstrating the ongoing hazard of the non-permanent structures erected at the protest camp.
The article also notes the fractures within the camp and the tribe, as well as the poaching allegations by North Dakota Game and Fish that has caught recent attention.
“Poaching is taking place here, from the camp. There are pictures from it. I saw a video of a deer swimming in circles and then getting stabbed at the camp at the Cannonball River,” said Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault. “I saw another picture of a mule deer buck being skinned by non-Indians.”
According to the article, “Signs of the shift from a tribally-driven to tribally-inclusive protest were visible even this fall, when the Oceti Sakowin camp began requiring new arrivals to attend morning orientations and daily camp meetings. The orientations became necessary when outside volunteers began to outnumber tribal members. Increasingly, orientation served to teach non-native protesters how to avoid inadvertently interfering with traditional ceremonies and worship practices.”
What remains remarkable is that despite an ebb in the camp’s population, millions in donated funds from across America remain in the hands of the tribe who has promised to “pay down tribal debts.” Meanwhile the protest camp remains open despite well documented hygiene and public health issues, and continued arrests, bringing the total people arrested since August 10th 2016 to 584.
As the rift grows between pro-camp and anti-camp factions within the tribe, as well as outside pressure from environmental activists, shutting the camp down remains the right decision for the tribal, state, and federal government.
The Dakota Access Pipeline protests may have begun this summer as a small gathering of members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, but they have grown. Now, the protests have become a movement with ties to environmental protests around the country and allies around the world. Recent signs show that as the protests have grown, the Native American elements are increasingly diluted, leading to fractures between the camp and the Standing Rock tribe itself.
Standing Rock chairman Dave Archambault II tacitly acknowledged this at a tribal council meeting on Thursday. The meeting discussed moving the encampments away from areas beside the river that are likely to flood when the snowmelt begins.
Protests continue against the Dakota Access Pipeline and protesters continue to violate laws across the country, engaging in dangerous actions to draw attention to their causes.
In North Dakota five people were arrested on Tuesday December 27 for trespassing after crossing the Cannonball River onto Army Corps land, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement on Wednesday. Later in the evening, law enforcement said a group of around 100 protesters gathered on a bridge that was the site of previous demonstrations and police fired sponge rounds at people attempting to remove a “No Trespassing” sign according to a Reutersreport.
Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said in the statement, “actions by protesters yesterday are proving they are not willing to be peaceful, and are certainly not respectful of our mutual agreement.”
But North Dakota isn’t the only site of these actions, two Dakota Access Pipeline protesters unfurled an anti-DAPL banner from the rafters of US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis during a game between the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears on New Year’s Day. The banner included a U.S. Bank logo with the word “divest” written vertically down the banner. At the bottom, it said, “#NoDAPL.”
According to police, the protesters demanded the media be present when they came down from the rafters. Once down, they were taken to jail and charged with trespassing.
My experience within the U.S. government and the International Energy Agency has focused on global energy markets, energy policy and national security. I continue to follow the development of our nation’s energy infrastructure projects with a close eye.
Over the last several months I have been deeply concerned by the slowdown in developing the energy infrastructure needed to take advantage of the energy renaissance underway in the upstream oil and gas industry.
One example, although by no means the only infrastructure delay, is the result of ongoing protests and the Obama administration’s recent action over one such project, the Dakota Access pipeline.
The efforts against the Dakota Access project should serve as a powerful cautionary tale of the dangers of energy policy driven by ideology rather than economic reality. Continued delay of projects like Dakota Access could have a chilling effect on expanding our nation’s energy infrastructure and on efforts to continue bolstering American energy security.
Access to affordable and dependable energy sources is critical for energy security and economic prosperity. Potentially high energy costs and U.S. reliance on oil from unstable regions of the world undermine U.S. foreign-policy flexibility and economic competitiveness.
One of the many facts ignored by activists is that oil produced in the Bakken region and other highly prospective areas will play an important role in our energy production for decades to come.
While I support balanced and comprehensive energy policies that include responsible development and utilization of all energy resources, both traditional as well as alternative sources, the fact is we’re just not there yet and we need to recognize the long lead times involved in these capital intensive projects. The Energy Information Administration projects that by 2040, oil, natural gas and coal will provide about 75% of America’s energy needs — a relatively small change from previous projections.
In a new opinion piece, Craig Stevens, spokesman for the MAIN Coalition, outlined how ‘fake news’ shaped the public debate and governmental decisions regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“We saw fake news play a critical role in the public’s outcry in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline,” Stevens wrote. “From my perspective, it was astounding that individuals and even elected officials were so loose with the truth and so unaffected by the facts.”
Stevens went on to outline several instances when blatantly false information shared by pipeline opponents, including multiple images that originated decades ago during completely unrelated events.
“[A] Facebook image — ostensibly of thousands of Standing Rock protesters — was shared more than 400,000 times. However, a critical eye and a quick Google search debunked the image as a photo from Woodstock 1969.”
As Stevens noted, the ‘Pizzagate’ conspiracy highlighted an extreme example of how ‘fake news’ can have impacts far beyond its origins as white noise on social media channels. In the case of Dakota Access, it is evident that the steady flow of false information allowed mainstream media and elected officials to miss key facts about a vital piece of national infrastructure.
“Taken together, this groundswell of armchair activism, coupled with the perpetuation of fake news, helped support an ultimately political decision that halted a $3.8 billion dollar infrastructure project,” Stevens wrote. “It’s concerning that as we move forward, elected officials and policymakers could so easily be swayed by rhetoric lined with demonstrably false statements.”
The explosion of online and social media platforms has brought tremendous benefits. Open, honest and timely sharing of information can break down barriers, subvert government oppression, and lead to more free and liberated societies around the globe. Social media has provided us with a personal look at the tragedy in Aleppo while giving hope to long lost relatives and parents a thousand gingerbread house ideas.
The power each person holds in the palm of his or her hand has tremendous possibilities; but with that, also tremendous responsibility. Online and social media have given new life to “fake news.” Once isolated among tabloids in the supermarket check-out, online fake news is so prevalent and so influential that PolitiFact named it the “Lie of the Year.”
Following her defeat to President-elect Trump, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton blamed her loss, partially, on the prevalence of fake stories. President Obama echoed similar concerns, saying recently, “if we can’t discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems.”
The “Pizzagate” conspiracy, an absurd story alleging that a Washington, D.C., pizza place was a front for a child molestation ring, led a North Carolina man to bring and fire a gun during his “investigation” of the community restaurant. Obviously, #Pizzagate represents an extreme case of the impact of fake news, but the fact remains, fake stories, misinformation and “news” backed with little-to-no-sourcing are driving public opinion and action more than ever before. While the blame is shared among many factors including the ubiquitousness of social media, “reporting” from non-reputable journalists, and readers’ lack of critical thinking; in the end, made-up “facts” are shaping the public’s perception of reality.
In an opinion piece by Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Manufacturers Association and David Taylor, president of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association, the authors highlight the importance of the Dakota Access Pipeline as a part of broader American energy security.
This should be a Day 1 priority for the incoming Trump Administration.
“There are no shortcuts to creating a climate that fosters job growth and strengthens manufacturing, but investing in our country’s energy infrastructure is a good place to start.”
The controversy that arose during the Dakota Access Pipeline allowed for an environment of political interests to supersede the needs of America’s energy future and the needs of American workers. But with promises to end the “business as usual” attitude that pervades Washington DC, President-elect Trump has a head start with the promise of this important energy project.
A new report produced by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy finds that America’s energy security is as its strongest point in two decades thanks to domestic oil and gas production.
The 2016 edition of the Index of U.S. Energy Security Risk, which examined an array of geopolitical, economic, reliability, and environmental risk factors, shows that total energy security risk in 2015 dropped to its lowest level since 1996. “The outlook for U.S. energy security is as bright as it has been since we started measuring it back in 2011,” wrote Karen Harbert, president and CEO of Institute for 21st Century Energy.
Not surprisingly, key infrastructure investments like the Dakota Access Pipeline are critical to domestic energy security and newly-defined role as the world’s leader in oil and gas production. In her opening remarks, Harbert makes clear that the benefits of America’s revolution “are contingent on the ability to move these resources to domestic and global markets” and cautions against the politicization of infrastructure needed to sustain continued growth.
On Dakota Access, the report notes the thorough review the project underwent:
The Dakota Access pipeline will link North Dakota’s oil fields with refineries in the Midwest and Gulf Coast. The project has undergone extensive stakeholder consultation and environmental review, received its national permits, and would run along existing rights of way for a natural gas pipeline and transmissions line. As of this writing, Dakota Access is awaiting a final Army Corp of Engineers easement and is being held up by Keep it in the Ground activists, which means that most North Dakota crude oil will continue to travel by rail.
This is not the first time Dakota Access has been discussed in the context of national security. Earlier this fall, former U.S. Ambassador Richard Kauzlarich called the Dakota Access Pipeline, “a critical step forward in shoring up U.S. energy security by providing safe and efficient transportation of oil inside the United States.” Kauzlarich, who served as ambassador to Bosnia and Azerbaijan under President Bill Clinton, added that Dakota Access will reduce America’s reliance on foreign oil and mitigate market volatility.
Whether it be strengthening the nation’s energy security or providing a safer, more efficient way to move domestic energy resources, the Dakota Access Pipeline has demonstrated its merit to the region and the country.
Image courtesy of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy.