With Donald Trump getting ready to take the reins of power, and with all of his gas and oil magnates being named to cabinet positions, we cannot forget about Standing Rock and the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The Army Corps of Engineers has refused to issue the permit for Energy Transfer Partners to run the pipeline under Lake Oahe, which is a drinking water reservoir for about 17 million people. The company says they are not going to even look for an alternate route as the Corps wants.
According to their CEO they are simply going to wait until Trump takes office and have him override the Corps and let them run their pipeline under the lake anyway. They claim it is safe because they will have electronic leak detectors in the pipeline so they will be able to shut off the flow of oil if a leak should occur.
There is another pipeline that is run by Casper, Wyoming-based True Cos., which operates the Belle Fourche pipeline that is about 150 miles from Standing Rock. They also have electronic leak detectors.
On December 5, a local landowner discovered that this pipeline was leaking oil. It has been determined that the leak began sometime around December 1 so it was leaking for about 5 days before being detected.
Approximately 176,000 gallons of oil spilled out of this pipeline. The problem is that it spilled into the Ashe Coulee creek. The creek empties into the Little Missouri river which is also a drinking water source.
Officials don’t “think” the oil got that far. They do know that about 6 miles of the creek has been contaminated and untold amount of shoreline was contaminated.
But, remember, this pipeline just like the DAPL one has electronic leak detectors. However, they didn’t work. So, the company was unaware of the leak and if the local landowner didn’t notice the leak, it would still be leaking now.
Most of this pipeline is underground. However, at the creek it comes up and passes over the creek. The leak was discovered at the point where the pipeline comes out of the ground. If this pipeline was under the creek, and the detectors failed as they did, how long would it be before the company found out about the leak, and how much more oil would have contaminated the creek?
At the time of the leak, the creek was free-flowing. Since then, it has frozen over which makes the clean up even tougher. There have been about 60 people working on the clean up since Monday and they are cleaning about 100 yards per day. And, it will probably take until spring until things get much better.
The company, True Cos. has a history of oil field–related spills in North Dakota and Montana, including a January 2015 pipeline break into the Yellowstone River. The 32,000-gallon spill temporarily shut down water supplies in the downstream community of Glendive, Montana, after oil was detected in the city’s water treatment system.
True Cos. operates at least three pipeline companies with a combined 1,648 miles of line in Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming, according to information the companies submitted to federal regulators. Since 2006, the companies have reported 36 spills totaling 320,000 gallons of petroleum products, most of which was never recovered.
Since the oil boom started in North Dakota, there have been reports of several spills across the state. Many of these spills were never fully reported or cleaned up. That is disturbing all by itself.
So, Energy Transfer Partners wants to place an oil pipeline beneath a water reservoir that affects 17 million people. They claim it is safe because they will have electronic leak detectors, just like the ones that failed 150 miles away.
So, what if those leak detectors fail under Lake Oahe? How long will it take for Energy Transfer Partners to realize there is a problem? How many people will have their drinking water contaminated?
The problem is since their pipeline will go under the lake, there will be no local landowner who discovers the leak for them. We would have to wait until the oil bubbles to the surface of the lake. By then, hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil will have leaked.
When I was in the Coast Guard, I was involved in an oil cleanup on the St. Lawrence River. In that case a barge struck bottom and leaked over 600,000 gallons of oil into the river.
That leak happened in June and we were still working on the cleanup until October when winter weather shut us down. The leak was a total mess to say the least. The entire area stunk for months after the leak and the water was contaminated for quite a long time.
Oil spills on lakes and rivers that are used for drinking water cannot just be blown off as the “cost of doing business”. It is not the company that caused the leak that suffers, it is the average person who needs to stay alive by drinking water.
Additionally, the cost of cleaning up a mess like this is considerable. And, in most cases, the oil company does not pay the full cost of cleanup, the taxpayers do. So, we get our drinking water contaminated by an oil company’s recklessness, and then we have to pay to clean up their mess. Nice.
All along the route of DAPL we have seen a private company flaunt their power in our face. First, they used eminent domain in many areas to steal land from private citizens. Then they rerouted the original planned route away from Bismark because the Governor thought it was too close to his drinking water. Now they are waiting for their puppet to say it will be okay to endanger Lake Oahe.
This won’t be the only “resurrection” of a pipeline either. You can bet your bottom dollar that we will see the Keystone XL pipeline raise its ugly head again.
We have always had to fight for our rights against private companies who think they own everything. With Donald Trump becoming their President it will get even worse. We will see more disregard for private property just so oil companies can make more money. We will see more disregard for the environment. We will see more disregard for us and our rights.
As Republicans plan to dismantle our health care system by repealing the Affordable Care Act throwing millions out of their health care coverage, they are planning to allow more pollution of our environment. Meaning we will see more cases of respiratory problems in our population and poisoning of our water, land and food. That is a great combination isn’t it?
We must continue to stand with the Standing Rock Sioux in their fight against DAPL. If we don’t, the oil companies will be coming for your land and drinking water next. And, with the appointments to his cabinets of oil executives, bankers, and generals you won’t have much of a leg to stand on.
Until we wake up as a nation and wean ourselves off of fossil fuels, we will always have a transportation problem when it comes to oil. That doesn’t mean we aren’t supposed to hold these companies responsible for their actions. It doesn’t mean we can’t say no to certain routes picked for convenience and cost savings if they threaten our environment.
Trump’s selections for his cabinet so far tell me the government won’t give a diddily-damn about the environment. So, it will be up to us to fight for it. We can win as long as we don’t forget fights like Standing Rock and the pollution at places like Ashe Coulee creek.