Just a week from the US elections, thousands of American protesters have been protesting against a controversial crude oil pipeline. And with the protests showing no signs of stopping, the pipeline company has taken matters into its own hands, seemingly attempting to smear its opponents and encourage violence.
The North Dakota pipeline
Critics have slammed the Dakota Access Pipeline for its potential environmental impact and the lack of consultation with indigenous communities in the area.
Project developer Dakota Access claims that the proposed $3.7bn pipeline will help the US to become less dependent on imported energy. It plans to transport 470,000 barrels of crude oil a day through North Dakota to Illinois. It also hopes to create an estimated $156m in revenue.
But thousands of local protesters claim the pipeline will damage sacred tribal burial grounds. They also say it could pollute the Missouri River — the main water source for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
Their concerns have been heightened after recent reports revealed other pipeline spills. On 22 October, for example, the Sunoco pipeline leaked gasoline near the Pennsylvania River. Here, environmental authorities warned locals to reduce their water intake.
The protest has been going on since April. While the protests have been peaceful, according to the majority of reports, the police have been making mass arrests. Recently, authorities issued an arrest warrant against award-winning Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman after she filmed pipeline security guards using dogs and pepper spray against protesters. They argued that she had participated in a “riot”. Their case was rejected.
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30 environmental groups, including Greenpeace, have come out to support the protests. They have also signed a letter to US President Barack Obama. Both former presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders and Green Party leader Jill Stein have also opposed the development. Hillary Clinton has only insisted on the vague “need to find a path forward that serves the broadest public interest”. Donald Trump, meanwhile, supports the expansion of such pipelines, and companies in charge of these projects support him.
With support for the protests growing, it appears that pipeline proponents have started to panic. According to an official report from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, an undercover pipeline employee was caught infiltrating their camp. His aim? To incite violence. The post reads:
On the same day as the incident, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department circulated a false report claiming the man was shot and that violence ensued.
Impact on elections
As a witness to the escalating conflicts surrounding the pipeline, the Obama Administration has withheld a permit that would allow Energy Transfer Partners to build across the Missouri River. The permit is only temporary while the government reviews its approval of the largely completed pipeline.
But with the protests hotting up, the US government may now have to take action if it doesn’t want the issue to interfere with the upcoming presidential elections.
– Find out more about the proposed pipeline.
– Find out how to support the protest.
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