Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
We inform. You decide.
Thursday, May 23, 2024

What do you get when you mix a massive oil pipeline, an unregulated oil market and a Native American protest movement making international headlines? The next Quentin Tarantino Western movie… or what’s happening in North Dakota.

Energy Transfer Partners, a massive energy company, is in the process of completing its Dakota Access oil pipeline project. Right on the pipeline’s path, however, is the Missouri River and territory the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe considers sacred.

You’re probably wondering which side you should take. Maybe you’re tired of the white corporate man taking Native American land. Maybe you’re tired of your leftist softy friends’ anti-corporatism and want some thick tax revenue from domestic oil investments. No matter your predispositions, you should take a moment to understand the massive economic and environmental consequences that will come from this pipeline if it’s erected.

North Dakota oil regions aren’t doing so great. Since 2015, after riding high on an eight-year oil boom, residents from the Williston, North Dakota, and Bakken oil-field areas have been relocating, sales tax revenue dropped significantly and debts have built up, according to a Reuters investigation.

This is because all of the massive growth in southern North Dakota from 2006 to 2014 came from only one industry. Now that world oil prices have dropped, there aren’t any other markets in the region to stem the tide.

This is what happened to Detroit after the recession and auto industry crisis. It’s what’s happened to southern North Dakota for the past year and it’s what will continue to happen should this pipeline come to fruition: a boom and then a devastating bust.

We haven’t even gotten to the fun part yet. What happens if this pipeline spills and destroys nearby farmland or pollutes water sources, such as the Missouri River? Energy Transfers claims protecting the local environment is a “top priority,” but the track record of oil companies in North Dakota maintaining environmentally responsible is — how do you say — not good.

In their 2014 investigation, The New York Times found that from 2006 to early October 2014, “more than 18.4 million gallons of oils and chemicals spilled, leaked or misted into the air, soil and waters of North Dakota.” And if these spills get onto farmers’ lands, it wrecks their territory for good.

As if this weren’t bleak enough, the regulatory authority over North Dakota, the Industrial Commission, doesn’t do what it should. Even when the commission does penalize and impose fines on oil companies, they usually settle for only 10 percent of the penalties, The New York Times found.

The result? From 2006 to 2014, the commission collected $1.1 million in fines, while Texas collected over $33 million from fines when producing four times as much oil as North Dakota.

And the cherry on top? The head of the commission, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple, accepts campaign contributions from big oil companies; as recently as 2012, he accepted $25,000 from the chief executive of the state’s second-biggest oil producer.

So, here we have an oil market in decline with a history of environmental damage, a regulatory agency that’s so hands-off it’d give a libertarian an orgasm and oil regulators that accept money from oil executives. What could possibly go wrong?

Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Alligator delivered to your inbox

If any of you are still in doubt, which is your right as free thinkers, at least consider this: Leonardo DiCaprio came out on Twitter against the pipeline to say, “Inspired by the Standing Rock Sioux’s efforts to alt the Dakota Access Pipeline.” If the pipeline isn’t good enough for Leo, it’s not good enough for us at the Alligator.

Support your local paper
Donate Today
The Independent Florida Alligator has been independent of the university since 1971, your donation today could help #SaveStudentNewsrooms. Please consider giving today.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Independent Florida Alligator and Campus Communications, Inc.