Standing Rock and the Dakota Access Pipeline

Watch our Jan. 15 Community Forum in Bismarck — Who Are the Water Protectors?

Dakota Resource Council has always been committed to member-driven, grassroots community organizing. Our members come from across North Dakota and have a variety of interests, but one common thread that runs through all of our campaigns is holding government accountable to the people. The #NoDAPL movement is proof of the disconnect between everyday people and their government and lack of accountable elected officials, especially tribal nations and state and federal government.

How has DRC involved? Aside from members visiting the protest site and camps regularly, our newest organizer, Elizabeth Loos (, has been working since mid-November to better serve the local community, who will still be here after the threat of Dakota Access is past, and strengthen relationships with allies in Bismarck-Mandan.

Read more about DRC’s position on page 9 of our latest newsletter.

In November, DRC held space for a community forum to hear directly from Standing Rock Chairman David Archambault II about the history of the tribe’s involvement and response to the project. Watch the full-length video of the forum here.

Read more of our statements and about our support events below.

ADDRESSING MISINFORMATION: Standing Rock and the Dakota Access Pipeline

The main reason DRC hosted a community forum was to dispel some of the vast amount of misinformation being distributed around DAPL. The section below covers some of the main points of misinformation and will be continually updated. (Thanks to our Oil and Gas organizer Cecilia for compiling this!) Check back for updates, and please let us know if other points should be addressed.

1. WHAT YOU HEAR: “The tribe should’ve spoken up when they had the chance.”
THE TRUTH: It is imperative that within the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) that all nations are
consulted as sovereign to sovereign. The lack of formalized consultation reflects clear problems within the larger permitting process, especially in terms of how the U.S. government interacts with other sovereign nations. The Nationwide Permits also utilized for the Dakota Access Pipeline were never intended for such large-scale infrastructure projects and don’t examine the cumulative impact of a project. As it currently exists, the permitting process caters to the oil industry at the expense of communities across North Dakota. Public notice was not given to the citizens of Sioux County; it was only provided to counties where the pipeline would physically lay.


2. WHAT YOU HEAR: “This is the safest pipeline yet with little chance it will break.”
Anything that is manmade eventually will break. North Dakota’s oil related spills continue to go unattended with State officials attempting to undermine the problem. As some DRC members have experienced, once a spill occurs that land is no longer operational. Weak oil and gas bonding and reclamation regulations allow for companies to escape accountability to the state and the local communities. Weaknesses include low bond amounts, statewide and national blanket bonds, and allowing oil and gas companies to “self-bond” or simply promise to pay reclamation costs in the future. Cleaning up spills is a long-term expense with little to no restoration of the land. Landowners should not have to pay costly legal fees to protect their land. Nor should residents have to fear that infrastructure shortcuts will impact their water, soil, and air. The financial and ecological costs of these shortcuts should not be undermined.

In an interview with PBS, Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren downplayed the company’s other LLC’s poor track record. An excerpt is below:

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You say that it’s very unlikely or very rare that this pipeline might rupture, but some companies’ pipelines seem to spill more than others.And your subsidiary Sunoco Logistics has a pretty poor track record when it comes to leaks. According to analysis done by Reuters, Sunoco Logistics spills more crude than any of its competitors, 200 oil leaks in the last six years. Doesn’t that safety record indicate that the concerns of the Standing Rock Tribe ought to be listened to?

KELCY WARREN: I disagree with that statistic about Sunoco Logistics.But everybody should be concerned about that. But keep in mind there’s a difference here. This is a body of water. This is a pipe that’s been designed specifically to fit into a bore underneath the riverbed. This is very thick wall pipe. It’s brand-new steel. Any reports they’re talking about with Sunoco, Sunoco is a 100-plus-year-old company. And there’s some very, very old pipe in our… (CROSSTALK)

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But we have seen ruptures in very recent, newly built pipes.Your Permian Express pipeline in Texas was a brand-new pipe. It spilled 8,000 barrels, I believe. Keystone One, again, a very new pipeline, spilled 14 times in its first year. It just seems like the concerns of the Standing Rock Tribe are not based on nothing.

KELCY WARREN: You know, look, again, like I said, everybody should be concerned about spilling oil on the ground or gasoline or any hydrocarbon or any contaminant, for that matter. Energy Transfer is doing the very best we can. We’re complying with all the laws, all the rules, and we’re over-designing. This pipeline is being built to safety standards that far exceed what the government requires us to do. And I just think the likelihood of a spill into Lake Oahe is just extremely remote.

Clean up from spills and leaks from infrastructure is a long-term environmental and costly consequence. The 2013 Tesoro 20,600 barrel oil spill near Tioga contaminated 15 acres of 35 acres of farmland. The cost of cleanup as of June 2015 was $42 million. To date, the North Dakota Energy Commission, led by Governor Dalrymple, has borrowed $6 million from the state bank, and requested another $4 million to cover DAPL protest costs. An emergency spokeswoman reported that this costs could reach double digit millions. Instead of using taxpayer dollars to silence people protecting natural resources, these funds should be used to clean up spills that have already happened.


3. WHAT YOU HEAR: “Shutting down the DAPL puts people out of work.”
While Dakota Access segment in North Dakota does employ several hundred people for pipeline construction, most are not locals and will leave once construction is completed. Furthermore, continuing to build for oil and gas infrastructure is not a sustainable investment for employment or the global climate. U.S. energy prices are down for the first time in years. North Dakota crude oil production has dropped to its lowest point since 2014. Instead of replacing the old pipelines that are in operation today, we should be investing in how to transition from fossil fuels to green technologies. North Dakota elected officials are driven by financial incentives for personal gain, not to benefit the state economy.. While North Dakota enters another downcycle of the boom, now is the opportune time to rethink our approach to energy and how to contribute to a healthier planet for future generations.


4. WHAT YOU HEAR: “They are bringing in hundreds of out-of-state agitators.”
The movement at Standing Rock has brought in hundreds of people from around the country and has sparked rallies of solidarity around the world. The noDAPL movement has come to represent much more than resistance to a crude oil pipeline. To those that come to stand in solidarity, it represents mishandled government relations with tribal nations, environmental injustices, human rights injustices and a fight against climate change. From the beginning, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe has made clear that at the core, the movement is about the protection of water, ensuring a healthy future for next generations, respecting nation-to-nation relations and consultation, and to rerouting the pipeline.

Since the end of July, the movement has grown significantly in size and have strived to maintain a unified message to water protectors and the world that the movement is non-violent, spiritual, and prayerful. This approach has proven to be enough agitation for Energy Transfer Partners to influence state officials to respond with over militarized police and record numbers of law enforcement, some recruited from out of state. Private security dogs were unleashed and attacked water protectors who were defending a sacred site disturbed by construction over a holiday weekend. Unarmed peaceful protesters have been pepper sprayed by unprovoked police. Law enforcement have pulled out medics directly from moving vehicles as they tried to move injured people to safety. Excessive force has been used on individuals. The police brutality has prompted Amnesty International to come to Standing Rock as observers, and the United Nations to investigate human rights abuses. As court trials are held, some water protector charges are being dropped.

Furthermore, this characterization of water protector violence is a distraction from the lawlessness the state administration has allowed to occur in the Bakken, the heart of oil and gas extraction. The State does not seem to be concerned with the seemingly constant environmental crimes that occur from countless oil and salt water spills, wasted uncaptured natural gas, and abandoned radioactive waste. The companies responsible of these crimes are not fined or taken to jail. The damage to farmers, ranchers, and others who’ve lived and worked here are considered by the state as “collateral damage” and efforts to help are rejected by the Oil and gas extraction has brought in a massive influx of out-of-state workers, overwhelming demands for infrastructure, urban sprawl, and negative social impacts to communities. An article from The Washington Post reported, “The arrival of highly paid oil workers living in sprawling “man camps” with limited spending opportunities has led to a crime wave — including murders, aggravated assaults, domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and robberies — fueled by a huge market for illegal drugs, primarily heroin and methamphetamine.”

North Dakota’s crime rate saw the biggest spike of the oil boom era according to an article release in September. This crime existed prior to a call to action from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. Stenehjem called this increase crime a vicious cycle and that the state needs more public education, adequate and well-trained law enforcement and available and affordable treatment options. Bismarck Police Chief Dan Donlin said he still believes Bismarck is a “very safe community,” and goes on to add “North Dakota in all is a different community. We’re not Minneapolis, but we’re not the North Dakota of 25, 30 years ago where you can leave your doors unlocked and you know everybody.” High levels of crime in communities in the oil field prompted the FBI to open an office in Williston last year. This is the state’s fifth office to open, all in response to surging criminal activity since the state’s oil boom began. The State is making the water protectors out to be criminals but refused to take accountability for show the lingering dark side of oil and gas extraction.


5. WHAT YOU HEAR: “We live nearby, and our lives feel threatened.”
THE TRUTH: There have been some reports that the residents near the camps have felt threatened, but most are unsubstantiated and rooted in fear-based attitudes that cloud the real issues. With the increase in militarized police and National Guard troops present in the area, there is a close eye on everything that is happening near the camps. The water protectors are working to provide a unified message to maintain actions that are peaceful, prayerful, and spiritual, and drugs and weapons are not allowed in the camps — Native Americans have a long history of responding to state violence with nonviolent and prayerful methods. Law enforcement and the state has justified its use of excessive force, amped-up response tactics, and physical violence by distributing false information that promotes misinformation and fear among residents.

Rapid haphazard oil and gas extraction in North Dakota over the past 10 years has not only undermined the safety of communities, it has also threatened the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers. Rural communities living with oil and gas across the West face increased truck traffic, elevated crime, and strained local economies, not to mention lost property values and agricultural viability, and threats to public health. In particular, the flaring, venting, and leaking of natural gas from oil and gas wells and frequent, land-destroying oil and frack water spills harm local residents’ quality of life and pose real threats to public health.

Dakota Resource Council is a member-driven, grassroots nonprofit that has been working since 1978 to build people power, influence public opinion, and shape public policy to protect agriculture, natural resources, livelihoods, and community well-being. We work to build local leaders to be prepared to engage in the democratic process and hold officials accountable to their communities. We believe in homegrown prosperity and lessening corporate influence and reviving local control. Join us to find out how to become involved in issues of oil and gas, clean energy, and agriculture and food.