What's going on in North Dakota?

On Monday morning, I got a notification from Facebook that my friend Grace checked in at Standing Rock, ND. This confused me for two reasons; First, Grace goes to the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and never skips class so it was highly unlikely she was all the way in North Dakota on a Monday. Second, why would she be in Standing Rock, North Dakota anyway? I knew that there were protests occurring in North Dakota, but I didn’t really know why or what they were about, so I decided to find out. Here’s a breakdown on what’s been going on in ND:

So...what is the “Dakota Access Pipeline”, exactly?

Originally proposed in 2014 but only approved by the Army Corps of Engineers this past July, the Dakota Access pipeline is a 1,172 mile long pipeline that would run from North Dakota to Illinois. It would pass through South Dakota and Iowa as well under a portion of the Mississippi River. According to its developer, the pipeline would send 470,000 barrels of crude oil a day from North Dakota to Illinois. That’s “enough gasoline to drive a medium-sized car from LA to San Francisco more than 330,000 times”, according to the LA Times.

What’s the point?

People in favor of the pipeline, especially its developers, Energy Transfer Partners, claim that there are both economic and environmental benefits to the pipeline. Anywhere from 8,000 to 12,000 jobs would be created during the pipeline's construction and the pipeline itself, and according to CNN, the pipeline “would significantly decrease U.S reliance on foreign oil, Energy Transfer Partners”. The developers also say that the pipeline is a much safer way to transport oil than the current method of using trucks and trains, which are at risk for explosion.

If it’s going to be so beneficial for the US, why is anyone opposed to it?

Not everyone agrees that the pipeline is going to be beneficial. Specifically, Native Americans and environmentalists are very, very against the pipeline. The first tribe to come out against the pipeline was the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, who have opposed the pipeline since it was first introduced in 2014. The Standing Rock Tribe is against the pipeline for two reasons; the Mississippi River is the tribe’s main source of drinking water, and the pipeline passes under it- if the pipeline bursts, the tribe’s drinking water is contaminated. As well, the tribe also claims that the pipeline passes through sacred burial grounds. Environmentalists are opposed to the pipeline because of its contributions to climate change.

What’s up with the protests?

Protests have been going on for six months and have just been increasing in size. As the protests increase in size, the relationship between the protestors and law enforcement has become strained, with both sides accusing the other of using unnecessarily aggressive tactics, and the number of arrests has grown. Many celebrities have come out in support of the protestors, including Leonardo Dicaprio, Ben Affleck, and Pharrell. Shailene Woodley and Mark Ruffalo have both actually attended protests in North Dakota, and Woodley was actually arrested at one.

What do the presidential candidates have to say about it?

Not surprisingly, neither candidate has taken any real sort of stance on the issue. Trump does own stock in Energy Transfer Partners but hasn’t mentioned anything about the pipeline.

And finally, why were people checking in at Standing Rock?

It was originally thought that the check-ins were a way to confuse the local law enforcement, but the Morton County Sheriff’s Department shut that down on Monday. Checking-in became a way for people around the world to show solidarity with the protestors, with more than 600,000 people checked-in at Standing Rock by Monday afternoon, according to CNN.

Regardless of which side you’re on, we can all agree that this pipeline is going to be a hot topic throughout the upcoming months, especially once we have a new president in January.