Challenges to Dakota Access Pipeline are shifting into new shapes, new fronts

President Donald J. Trump says the Dakota Access Pipeline is not even controversial. Yet the challenges to that project are taking new form. (Photo via YouTube)


Could there be a day, one day, without oil?

Mark Trahant / Trahant Reports

The Trump administration has been in office for less than a month — and already the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline is again proceeding. Company officials say oil will be flowing by June.

Yes, there is a flurry of activity around the Dakota Access Pipeline, a project that has cost more than $3.8 billion to transfer oil from North Dakota to markets in Illinois and beyond.

But every action to build the pipeline is met with many more reactions to stop it. The fight about this pipeline — and the broader issues it represents — is far from over.

Of course some days it does not seem that way. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved the final easement for the pipeline to cross under the Missouri River and complete the project. The Corps also withdrew its ongoing environmental review, citing President Donald J. Trump’s executive memorandum. But that begs a huge question for the courts: Can a president do that? Is an order from the president (along with previous environmental findings from the Corps) enough to satisfy the law? That question will be sorted out by the courts.

But there are many other challenges to the pipeline.

A press release from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said if the construction is successful “the tribe will seek to shut the pipeline operations down.” The tribe has also called for a march next month in the nation’s capital.

“Our fight is no longer at the North Dakota site itself,” said tribal chairman Dave Archambault II. “Our fight is with Congress and the Trump administration. Meet us in Washington on March 10.”

In addition there remain water protectors near the construction site itself (as well as a massive cleanup of where people were camping in flood-prone areas).

What’s clear about the “what’s next?” is that the battle against the Dakota Access Pipeline is taking a very different form. And it’s also a new start because there will be many more actions as the administration and oil-related companies move to restart the Keystone XL pipeline, or in Canada, the Kinder Morgan pipeline.

Then President Trump lives in a world where none of this is a big deal. “I don’t even think it was controversial,” he said. “I haven’t had one call.”

Then the White House wasn’t taking calls. So the Center for Investigative Reporting and its Reveal News has created a new phone number to solicit voice mails from the public about what they would tell the president. It’s 510-545-2640. This is your opportunity to sound off.

Another challenge is financial. Many individuals, tribes, cities, and companies are pulling their money from the banks who finance the Dakota Access Pipeline. But that’s really just the beginning of the actions ahead. Rebecca Adamson, founder of First Peoples Worldwide, points out to investors how much capital is lost by companies that operate without consent from the community involved. A cost she has pegged at somewhere between $20 million to $30 million a week when there are operational disruptions. “The time it takes to bring oil and gas projects on-line has doubled over the course of the past decade due to community opposition, creating significant financial loss,” Adamson writes. More investors are learning about that financial risk and even more need to understand  what’s at stake.

“The movement to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is wreaking financial havoc on the companies and banks involved,” Adamson writes. “In August 2016, Energy Transfer Partners reported ‘it could lose $1.4 billion in a year if delays continue … Even a temporary delay would mean loses of over $430 million.’ ETP is attempting to raise new debt. This could mean that the banks are ramping up pressure on the company to repay their loans out of concern DAPL will never be finished. In November 2016, Energy Transfer Partners announced a merger with sister company Sunoco Logistics in order to raise much needed cash to finish construction. Energy Transfer Partners’ own shareholders are filing a lawsuit to block the merger, alleging conflicts of interest.”

Like I said: The financial challenges are just beginning.

I also have a big idea I want to toss out. One that could have significant financial implications. So we know the project will take some 30 days to complete. And about three weeks to actually transfer oil from North Dakota to the end of the pipeline. (Updated: Company officials told the U.S. District Court that oil could begin flowing in less than four weeks.)

What if on that day, the day the oil reaches markets, there is a Day Without Oil. One day. It take a massive organizational effort. But why not? What if every ally of Standing Rock, every community that has its own Standing Rock, every one who is concerned about water, takes a day off from oil? Either walk every where that day — or just stay home. Do what it takes to remind the companies, and the government itself, who’s really in charge of the economy.

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports

Reposting or reprinting this column? Please credit: Mark Trahant /


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Mark Trahant

Mark Trahant is an independent journalist. He currently serves as the Charles R. Johnson Professor at the University of North Dakota.

20 thoughts on “Challenges to Dakota Access Pipeline are shifting into new shapes, new fronts”

  1. All of us are responsible for the health of not only our country but this world! To bow down to the wealthy for interests of their own investments, not the interest of the earth is unconscionable! Ever one of us is responsible for that care!

  2. Corporations of the fossil fuels industry are feeding misinformation to the people of the world. If you oppose fossil fuels no matter what part of society you will be attacked. In other nations you will be killed for standing up to big oil.

  3. A day without oil will not make a difference. How about a day for solar, wind, and geothermal. Give your gas money to any organization that is instrumental in alternative fuels. Have a list of vetted organizations. One Webb site where you can give and earmark your choice for your donation. It works very well in Fargo ND. It is called Giving Hearts Day. Innovative solar, wind, geothermal, and environmental protection groups would love extra cash.

  4. 186,000 miles of oil pipeline is enough. Use those lines and maintain or replace the old ones. Clean up and be responsible for all the leaks and spills that occur everyday… No more. Stop fracking and destroying our land’s. Divert to green energy. Keystone and DAPL does not benefit anyone except walstreet and contributes to global warming.

  5. Mr Trump, I have been voicing my opinion regarding the pipe line for over a year. I’ve written not only to my local senators which included Harry Reid, Elizabeth Warren, president Obama, Vice President Joe Bidden and the UN regarding the abuse by Morton County and the pipe line paid mercenary. It is time to get rid of dirty oil and fracking thats is drtroying our earth. We have a right as US Citizens to have clean dring water and air. You should do what’s best for our country and it’s people not your pocket book. Thank you

    1. See how slips in language can negate a position or mandate.
      They first were to review the origional study, which did not include in maps areas that were sensitive enviromentally and cultural religious or archeologically to the Ancesterial Culture and peoples. As when they ran over the cemetery where her son was buried. And home. Private owned properties desecrated by NDOPL, Energy Transfer.

  6. Give us a break – leave it up to the status-quo to come up with a solution – you’re kidding me – right! The only way is to head- up against this pipeline and stop it in its tacks – it is, legally, without any status and can be opposed within that framework, barring any belligerence from the state. It will be documented regardless, let the blame fall where it may…

  7. The fossil fuel industry is now in charge of the federal government. The White House and U.S. Congress are joined at the hip with oil and pipeline companies. They’re also in control of the Environmental Protection Agency. The health and safety of American citizens won’t enter into any of their decisions to spoil the earth for their benefactors greed. The only government help Americans can hope for is if the courts stand up to this insanity. We, the earth protectors must use the only power we have left. We must mobilize what’s left of our state governments and use our consumer power to fight back. I think the first target should be a total boycott of all Exxon Mobile products, especially refusing to buy their gasoline. Earth protectors should pledge to reduce their gasoline consumption by at least 20%. Walk and ride a bike as much as possible. And those who are financially able to purchase a new vehicle, please look at the new GM 2017 Chevy Bolt all electric vehicle. Motor Trend Car of the Year, 2017 North American Car of the Year, 2017 Green Car of the Year, $29,995 after tax credits, 238 mile range and also made in the good old USA. Trump and his oil and gas cronies and the Republi-con in congress couldn’t care less about protecting you and your families. It’s up to us. The veterans who stood with Standing Rock are already starting to mobilize. They stood up for American liberty and will help liberate us from the fossil fuel evildoers. John Hanno,

  8. Let me get this straight. You want to shut this pipeline down and cost the oil companies a lot of money. I suggest they sue you because of your illegal actions.
    I would have more tolerance for these tactics if anyone had produced proof that this pipeline will leak. There are 8 other pipelines near this site with no problems. Here is proof that the pipeline is safe.

    The water intake for the Sue indian tribe is 70 miles south of this point. It is beyond imagination that an oil spill would ever make it down there in the statistically remote chance of a leak. It is so small as to approach -0-. It is close to Zero.

    No protestor has ever mentioned the $25-30 Million per year that the tribe will lose from Burlington Northern if the oil is shipped by pipeline rather that train. I suspect it is significantly more. Again this fact has never been mentioned. The cost will be significantly reduced by using the pipeline.

    Think of all the carbon pollution that a locomotive spews out while transporting the oil. This affects the whole nation not just the indian reservation. Oil pipeline does not have those emissions.

    Similar arguments can be made for the XL pipeline. Pipelines are safer than rail or truck transport.

    I am tired of all the lies being spewed out by those sues protestors. LIES. They should be thrown in jail for all the damage done to the ETP corp.

    1. Uh…did u not hear about the 100k+ gallons of dead fossils that recently leaked in the Missouri River. ..just miles from standing rock? The rest of what u wrote I skipped by bc I’m sure you’re just a Talker.

    2. You must work for the ETP. Funny if they were getting all that money from oil would there be, why would they have filed several lawsuits to STOP The BLACK SNAKE .
      You must work for the oil co spreading Psudo News.

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