The Dakota Access Pipeline Must be Stopped

© Josh Sager – November 2016

The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is a crude oil pipeline running nearly 1,200 miles between the Bakkan Shale in North Dakota and the existing oil pipeline in Illinois. If completed, it will carry between 470,000 and 570,000 gallons of crude oil each day, transporting it from the point of extraction to refineries.


Along its route, the DAPL will pass over many vulnerable areas, including the Missouri river, which is the primary water source for many Americans. Leaks in this type of pipeline are extremely common—there were 292 pipeline spill during 2012 and 2013 in North Dakota alone—and a serious leak into the Missouri river would render it unsafe to drink, while destroying local ecosystems.

Put simply, the DAPL is a perfect example of short-term corporate profits overriding the needs of actual people and the long-term greater good of our society. There are numerous problems, both in the short term and the long term, that make the DAPL a truly horrible endeavor that must be stopped immediately.

Issue #1: DAPL Steals Native American Land

The DAPL raises a serious issue of social justice. The pipeline originally was set to cross the Missouri north of Bismarck, ND, but they changed the route due to concerns that a leak would destroy the city’s water supply. The new route avoided the primary white city of Bismarck and is set to run across the sacred land of the Standing Rock Sioux and across the section of the Missouri river that thousands of Native Americans rely upon for their water. Building the pipeline will destroy native burial grounds and religious sites, and any spill of the pipeline will result in a Flint-type catastrophe for numerous Native American communities.

Just to make matters worse, the land that is being seized to build the pipeline is sovereign Native American land under the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty between the Sioux Nation and the federal government. This continues a long and extremely ugly pattern of the United States refusing to honor treaties with the Native Americans and forcing them off of their land in order to serve wealthy economic interests.


Currently, hundreds of Native Americans and activists are protesting the DAPL and have been met with terrible police violence—police have sent attack dogs after peaceful protesters, shot rubber bullets, sound cannons and pepper spray into the crowd, beaten and arrested hundreds, and gone after the families of protest leaders (e.g. arresting the daughter of one leader for being a passenger in a “speeding” car and leaving her naked in a jail cell overnight).

In short, the DAPL project is being protected by militarized police who are doing everything in their power to repress those who don’t want the pipeline built across land that is legally theirs. Videos of the police actions (TYTPolitics and DemocracyNow have numerous videos and interviews from on the ground) are intensely disturbing and harken back to the civil rights protests in their brutality. If this is allowed to continue, it will reflect badly on our entire nation and history will judge us for it.

Issue #2: DAPL Poses an Imminent Risk to Water Resources

As previously mentioned, pipelines like the DAPL are prone to leaking. This is a function of the high pressures, caustic chemicals and long distances involved. There is simply no way to eliminate the risk of spills and, given the evidence collected on other pipelines, the question is not IF DAPL will spill, but WHEN.

When DAPL spills, it will expose vulnerable water, agriculture and wildlife to large quantities of incredibly toxic chemicals. There is no truly effective way to clean up such a spill and it will destroy whatever ecosystem it contaminates.


As we have seen in Flint Michigan, a water crisis is extremely disruptive. People need to get water purified before they can drink it, and even then, the risk of health consequences is immense. Added to this is the issue that an oil spill would destroy fishing and hunting areas that some people rely upon for their subsistence lifestyle. The areas that this pipeline pass through are typically poor and residents are extremely unlikely to have the means to move out of a crisis zone or even take basic steps to mitigate water contaminations’ health effects (e.g. buying purifiers or bottled water).

In short, the DAPL is a crisis in the making and we can either stop it now or deal with the consequences after a catastrophe occurs.

Issue #3: DAPL Ensures More Fossil Fuel Use

The DAPL will increase the amount of oil that the USA can export and will make it cost effective for extraction companies to increase their activities in the Bakkan Shale. This will contribute to climate change and make it harder for the USA to transfer to a green energy infrastructure. The set cost of infrastructure projects like pipelines is significant and the operators of such projects have an incentive to run them for as long as possible in order to maximize the return on their investment.

Now is not the time to put down more infrastructure that increases the use of fossil fuel. We are facing climate change on the scale that humanity has never experienced and must do everything in our power to mitigate its severity.

If the DAPL is not activated, it will limit the amount of oil that can be extracted from the Bakkan in a cost-effective manner, thus limiting the amount of fuel that will be consumed. While some argue that this will increase American oil prices, this is a red herring argument because it assumes that the DAPL will carry oil for American consumption rather than exportation. As prices are higher in many other regions (e.g. Europe), companies are almost certainly going to export the oil into the global market, diffusing the impact of any price increase on domestic markets (building the pipeline would have a minimum supply on American oil supplies because oil extracted would be exported abroad).

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