Letter: Standing Rock, oil spills


In his Jan. 7 letter disagreeing with supportive views of Standing Rock protesters in their resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline, Kenneth Server stated that he has a problem “when protests lack substance, focus on remote happenings, exaggerate the subsequent consequences…” I’d like to respond to those particular statements.

“Substance,” I proffer, like beauty, lies in the eye of the beholder. Obviously the Sioux believe there is good reason to resist an oil pipeline beneath Lake Oahe on the Missouri River, which provides drinking water for them and others. Pipelines do break, even new ones.

There were over 200 “significant” oil spills in the U.S. in 2016 alone, and more than 3,000 “significant incidents” since 2006 (ecowatch.com). They are a rather common occurrence.

Not lost on the Sioux is that North Dakota is already dealing with two major oil spills (ap.org/tesoro). A spill resulting from a ruptured Tesoro Corp. pipeline of fracked oil happened in a wheat field near Tioga in September 2013. Not even a third of the 840,000 gallons spilled has been recovered and North Dakota environmental scientist Bill Suess says he doubts all of it ever will be. The three-year (thus far) clean-up has required “digging 50 feet underground to remove hundreds of thousands of tons of oil-tainted soil,” and is estimated to eventually cost $60 million.

More recently, on Dec. 5, the Belle Fourche pipeline in Belfield broke, less than 200 miles from Standing Rock, spilling 176,000 gallons of oil onto U.S. Forestry land and into a creek that feeds into the Little Missouri River, a tributary of the Missouri River.

While this and the Tesoro are both 6-inch steel pipelines, they also carry less oil than is planned for the 30” Dakota Access Pipeline, which would carry 20 million gallons per day.

Further, the remote detection equipment for each pipeline failed to detect the ruptures; the massive spills were discovered by the affected farmers/residents.

So it doesn’t seem to me that the Standing Rock protests are focused on “remote happenings” or remote possibilities; nor are they “exaggerating the subsequent consequences” of any remote happenings/possibilities. Increasingly sophisticated technology, in this case engineering technology, while useful, also comes at a cost, and that cost too often is an increasingly degraded or at-risk environment, and humanity.

There are other factors at play for the Sioux, including a worldview in which Spirit is intimately interwoven with the earth, giving rise to the protesters’ refrain that water is sacred.

Perhaps more relatable for many non-native people is the phrase used at Standing Rock ‘mni wiconi—“water is life.”

Why wouldn’t they act to protect it?

We all should be so committed.

LaWanna Durbin