16 October 2016

Standing Rock Stand Against Water Defilement

To protect water ensures security for ecosystems, people, the river itself. The Indigenous Peoples of America and the world are leading us toward a sustainable tomorrow, if we are only willing to follow.

I have just returned from a field trip to North Dakota water protector camps on and near to the Standing Rock Lakota-Sioux Reservation. If you have not heard about this historic and monumental event, please read more about it on Sacred Stone Camp's website. They have collected dozens of news articles about the situation. As I understand it...
 
Delwin Fiddler holds open a Water is Life Banner at Oceti Sakowin

 Camp






THE ACTION Indigenous Peoples and allies from around the country (the count is up to more than 245 Indigenous Tribes) and world have come together in North Dakota to stand against an oil pipeline called the Dakota Access Pipeline or DAPL for short. This unification of Tribes is unprecedented. The stand at Standing Rock Reservation is along the Missouri River and Cannonball River confluence and is full of people of all ages, native and non-native alike. People are staying in secure camps near to the construction of the pipeline. Those who have come there identify as Water Protectors and are putting their lives and bodies on the line to prevent development of an oil pipeline crossing the Missouri River. The camps are full of prayers. Groups of singers, drummers, flute players, and dancers share their performance as medicine for healing and strength.

THE PIPELINE This 1,172 mile pipeline is designed to cross the Missouri River and the Mississippi River as well as 8 other tributaries of the Missouri - as I wrote about previously, but as I learned in North Dakota, will cross 209 waterways in total. The pipeline company is called Energy Transfer Partners and is based in Texas, but has assets all over the United States. They state on their website that they are aware of Environmental Regulations and abide by them. If this is the case, why did they choose to fast track their pipeline construction, thereby bypassing Clean Water Act and NEPA regulations for proper Environmental Impact Assessment on the totality of this megaproject? What I am talking about is that the company, with the permission of the Federal Government bodies that could call them out on this and enforce otherwise, used a loophole in the law created for small-scale infrastructure projects. They broke their project impact into 1000 foot segments and assessed under those required guidelines - a much less rigorous and costly method to ensure environmental safety and compliance. This is a mega project and needs to be assessed as such. There is a reason why these laws are in place in the first place and finding ways around the law only serves to dilute the effectiveness of environmental policies.

Pipelines leak. There are some good technologies out there that can minimize threat and failure, but there is no full-proof design for leak-proof pipelines. This particular pipeline will move through 4 states and 40 counties, but a breach could impact a much broader swathe of America through contamination of both the surface and ground water.




THE GOVERNMENT'S RESPONSE  Currently, the state police and national guard are being used to protect this private company's interest - in other words, tax payer dollars are being used for corporate interests. This coupled with the taxpayer dollars required to clean up oil spills over the years puts public interests aside for private profit.

Additionally, at least two people are being charged with either participating in or inciting a riot, when in fact both of these people were filming the North Dakota police, pipeline security, and water protector clashes. Tomorrow we will see where the courts are going with such a charge and whether or not this goes anywhere - if either person is convicted they will be considered political prisoners, something that happens in other countries frequently and why many people seek asylum in America - we have Right to Free Speech, Freedom of the Press, and Right to Assembly. This is getting a bit confusing as well because people are being arrested for exercising their First Amendment. In case you need a refresher (I know I did):

In the First Amendment to the United States Constitution it states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances" (Bloom p. 81). The right of a citizen to peacefully 1) parade and gather or 2) demonstrate support or opposition of public policy or 3) express one's views is guaranteed by the freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assembly..

On September 9th the Department of Justice put forward a statement that they would be meeting with Tribal members across the country this fall to discuss two items (no doubt related to what has been inspired at Standing Rock):
1. within the existing statutory framework, what should the federal government do to better ensure meaningful tribal input into infrastructure-related reviews and decisions and the protection of tribal lands, resources, and treaty rights?
2. should new legislation be proposed to Congress to alter that statutory framework and promote those goals?

Meetings have already occurred in Phoenix, Arizona and will continue this fall. I am interested to hear what the Tribes call for from the government in light of continued infrastructural development encroachment on water, land, and resources guaranteed through the Treaties (for a complete list, University of Oklahoma has a database).

THE MEDIA'S ROLE
Traditional media has done a crap job covering this event. People have been camped near the river since April. The camp swelled and an overflow camp was established over the summer. This fall, people are digging in for the winter. Yet, not much of anything has appeared on the evening news, and barely anything about this in the newspapers. This is news. I cannot believe that the elections need that much airspace that not one story can be shared about this.

When an article does get published by a mainstream outfit, such as the recent New York Times article by Jack Healey (you can email him at jack.healy@nytimes.com to let him know what you think) the coverage is painfully biased and poorly written by junior, inexperienced journalists and photographers (the photos look like the photographer didn't get out of the vehicle, & the voice-over by the author is amateurish at best). 

If you want to know about Standing Rock situation, it is best to check social media. Some of that has not been cooperating and working properly either. Some people think that the media black out is on purpose. Some people experience that social media is being limited - such as some functionality of Facebook has been acting unusual - such as the live feed or videos not posting properly or in a timely fashion.


THE BOTTOM LINE
People who care about the security of the water are taking a stand in North Dakota. This is another in a trend of actions taken across the country of people standing against the irresponsible development fostered by a broken Federal permitting process that is overlooking its own law and policy. Clean Water Act. National Environmental Policy Act. Endangered Species Act. These decisions were put in place for a reason. Touting "National Security" reasons for building a pipeline to process crude oil that will most likely sell to the highest bidder - not necessarily for domestic markets - does not trump the need for this Energy Transfers company to follow regulations like everyone else. Water is our most important national security issue. Wake up Washington.

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To protect water ensures security for ecosystems, people, the river itself. The indigenous peoples of America and the world are leading us toward a sustainable tomorrow, if we are only willing to follow.