The Dakota Access Pipeline project could be considered an ethical dilemma; whereby the proponents claim the project would entail energy independence. The opposition, on the other hand claim that it effectively threatens the environment and the lifestyle of the local tribes at Standing Rock residing within the vicinity of the proposed pipeline, where they feel that their legacy could be at stake fearing from oil spills at the only source of clean drinking water.
The 1,134-mile-long, $3.8 billion USD pipeline potentially running from Bakken at North Dakota carrying the oil up until Patoka, Illinois that essentially is aimed at providing an efficient way of transporting crude oil has been criticised to cause severe environmental damage and has garnered much attention as a result of the opposition uprising. While people have expressed opinions, but things aren’t necessarily straightforward. We shall delve into the argument to get to grips with the issue at hand.
Benefits induced by the proposed pipeline.
The construction would in essence help the US become “energy independent”, by minimising the oil imports, thereby improving the economy. The oil imports (from Middle East, Russia, etc.) amounts to nearly two-thirds of the annual US trade deficit, and the increase in oil production at Bakken could potentially eradicate cash outflow thereby proving to be self-sufficient. It will also generate about $ 120 million annually in property and income taxes for the states along the route.
The construction of the pipeline quintessentially would help bolster job prospects, providing opportunities to local communities, as well as contractors, pipe manufacturers and service companies.
Furthermore, owing to the fact that the pipeline surpassed 70% completion, as of date, terminating the DAPL could subdue the investments rendering financial and human resources expended toward the progress of the project, in vain.
The potential of extruding oil from Bakken is estimated to an enormous 7.4bn barrels with over 470,000 barrels produced per day, according to the US geological survey. Since this port is located further North of the Patoka oil hub, and the transportation of oil by means of road, rail and sea transport is quite inefficient and unsafe, a novel yet efficient method of transportation was suggested in the form of the Dakota Access Pipeline. According to Energy Information Association(EIA) the transport of crude oil by means of rail is roughly 418,000 barrels per day, the capacity of which is significantly lower than that of the proposed pipeline.
Safety, being one of the prime drivers gained the infrastructure of the pipeline further support financially. Fraser Institute(Canada) suggests the locomotion of oil via pipelines is statistically 4.5 times safer when compared to moving an equivalent amount via other modes of transport, thereby reducing the overall carbon footprint and costs.
While oil spills are a major concern for the indigenous communities living in the vicinity who feel threatened , quantitative risk analysis conducted helps appreciate the risks associated thereby suggesting risk mitigation strategies. This includes Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan, Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure Plan, to name a few aimed to eliminate environmental and cultural resource impacts. Moreover, the Congressional Research Service in the United States claims that the risk of spillage and environmental impacts through more densely populated areas are more drastic when transported through rail. The famous case of the crude oil train derailment, that decimated a Canadian town could be seen as a significant risk
Wouldn’t the prospect of being able to provide energy independence and economic prosperity by means of the pipeline, be considered essential toward American progress? If the risk of spillage and accidents can be minimised through the construction of a pipeline. Would that not be considered more ethical, in effect?
More harm than good?
The source and supply of water to those at the Standing Rock Sioux and millions living downstream could be jeopardized as a result of the project going forward. Despite the fact that risk mitigation strategies have been undertaken, one cannot be certain about the discrepancies that might occur as a result of the project going forth. For example, the infamous Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, was one of the most controversial matters at the time, whereby BP officials at the time of the construction made claims of operating in a risk free environment, but we all know how that went down.
The pipeline, initially scheduled to voyage under Missouri river, was diverted to south of the city that stands upstream of the Standing Rock Reservation due to concerns raised by the majority. Apart from risk of contamination, the protests raised concerns pertaining to the safety of the pipeline when the construction was expedited through use of Nationwide Permit No. 12, which exempted it from carrying out environmental analysis at an early stage.
Additionally, the pipeline was aimed at being constructed on a land considered sacred by the Oceti Sakowin (Sioux) tribe, which was designated to them under the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie. Therefore, it was unethical to have gained access to the construction on-site as the tribe should have been consulted on the matter way before the idea was materialised.
Although, the environmental implications due to the construction of the pipeline being critical, is not limited to the pollutants or contamination that could terrorise the lake. But, by the authorisation of the construction of the DAPL the option to go for environmentally friendly, alternative technologies will be surpassed by choosing to increase dependence on fossil fuels, harming the environment by increasing fossil fuel emissions. This is a problem that does not seem to concern the current Government of the United States, since the President Trump’s position has always been against the implementation of green alternatives forms energy.
It is estimated that the amount of Green House Gases emissions released to the environment by laying the pipeline is comparable to the operation of 30 coal power plants, which can be considered as a step backward in the efforts to prevent the climate change. By being supportive of the construction of the pipeline, would in essence do more harm than good by causing consequential environmental harm.
The demonstrations held at parts of the Reservation garnered media attention owing to its violent nature. The Indians have a long history of troubled pasts where they’ve essentially been oppressed countless number of times making them purely altruistic at the hands of American Politicians. This principally follows the consequentialist theory of producing the greatest good, no matter the cost. The tribes are rightfully standing their ground as they have a right to protect their culture and traditions, especially since it is being endangered for something materialistic at the hands of capitalists like Energy Transfer Partners and the US Army Corps of Engineers, to venture on profits reaped at cost of lives being endangered.
This raises questions such as, who or what gives the government the authority to act without dialogue or consensus? Is this what a 21st century democratic superpower stands for…?
Group 78: Taqee Nawaz Syed, Gilberto Andres Lemus Caballero, Angel Gomez Escobar, Arvinth Roy