CLAIM: A coalition of Congressional Democrats, as well as a group of celebrities from athletes to actresses, have recently called on President Biden to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) while it undergoes additional environmental review. The letters allege:
- “The pipeline had originally been slated to cross the Missouri River north of Bismarck, ND, yet the risk of an oil spill on the city’s 90% white inhabitants was deemed too great.”
- There was “egregious environmental racism as North Dakota law enforcement officials violently removed protestors from the path of DAPL”
- The concerns of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe were ignored
- The pipeline is illegal
FACT CHECK: There are many misleading statements and factual errors in the two letters:
First, the existing DAPL route was always the preferred route. It was the route included with the pipeline’s permit application to the North Dakota Public Services Commission in December 2014 and was chosen as the final route for the pipeline application as early as September 2014. The alternative route near Bismarck would have crossed 27 more waterways, more agricultural land and would have been significantly longer. It is hypocritical to champion concerns about water security and not acknowledge the stark fact that the Bismarck route presents a larger risk to more bodies of water.
Second, it is important to point out that more than 600 unruly protestors were arrested on a wide variety of charges. Protestors were arrested for throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at police, setting fires, slaughtering livestock, discharging firearms at law enforcement, pepper spraying officers, burning a bridge, terrorizing journalists, and repeatedly trespassing on private property.
Further, less than 10 percent of those arrested were from North Dakota, while the vast majority were from 46 other states stretching from Vermont to Florida to California. Hundreds of those arrested had criminal records. Just in the past few months, a number of excessive force lawsuits filed by protestors against law enforcement were thrown out by federal judges.
Third, the concerns of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe were not ignored. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers engaged in a robust consultation process which included nearly 400 instances of tribal meetings and communications. In fact, there were 7 instances where the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe chose not to participate whatsoever in the consultation process.
Lastly, the Dakota Access Pipeline is not “illegal.” The pipeline underwent a rigorous, multi-year permitting and approval process that involved local, state, and federal regulators. Energy Transfer, the pipeline’s developer, followed the rules and obtained all necessary approvals.
The pipeline has safely operated for nearly four years, safely transporting crude oil from the oil fields of North Dakota to a hub in southern Illinois. The latest court ruling found the Corps’ environmental assessment fell short of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and ordered the agency to conduct a more in-depth environmental impact statement (EIS). While the appeals court affirmed the district court’s order vacating DAPL’s easement for the aforementioned reason, they reversed the lower court’s order that the pipeline must be shut down and emptied of oil, instead leaving that decision up to the experts at the Army Corps.