In recent weeks, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers handed down the final easement needed for the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross Lake Oahe in my home state of North Dakota. The pipeline is just days away from becoming operational. While legal battles will likely continue to be waged, court rulings to date have consistently validated the process that led to approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline. As protest camps in the region clear out, it’s worth taking a moment to consider the toll that those activities took on the residents and the environment of North Dakota.
According to the latest reports, clean-up crews have removed as much as 48 million pounds of garbage from the Oceti Sakowin camp, costing taxpayers as much as $1 million. This unprecedented level of negligence stood as a threat to the region’s environment, until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and state officials intervened and evacuated the camps. With rising temperatures and spring thaws on the way, the refuse could have been washed directly into the Missouri River system. With all the rhetoric about protecting the water, the trash left behind by protestors posed a far more imminent threat to water than the pipelines buried far underneath it. Thankfully, the authorities intervened before more serious damage was done.
Looking beyond Dakota Access to the future of other pipeline infrastructure projects, some key facts merit consideration.
First, for the foreseeable future, residents of the United States will continue to rely on petroleum products such as crude oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids like butane, ethane and propane to sustain their everyday lives. Second, pipelines remain, by far, the safest means by which to transport those energy goods. Third, the United States continues to work steadily toward the diversification of its energy sources, utilizing energy goods produced here at home and lessening our reliance on energy from volatile regions elsewhere in the world. Fourth, a pressing need for infrastructure remains in growing production regions within the United States – such as the Marcellus, Bakken, and Permian shale regions – to markets within and for export to allies abroad.