Build the pipeline, not the wall

By Brad Polumbo

(Tony Webster/ Flickr)
(Tony Webster/ Flickr)

In his first days as president, Donald Trump has made waves with a series of wide-ranging executive orders. These controversial orders include: Mandates on his biggest campaign promise of a border wall, a ban on immigration from seven countries and an order authorizing the advancement of the Dakota Access pipeline, a 1,172-mile subterranean oil pipeline originally planned to run through North Dakota. Now, I certainly don’t intend to argue that we need a $15 billion wall along our southern border, or that the catastrophic amount of terrorist attacks carried out on United States soil by refugees, which is actually zero, justifies such a ban. However, President Trump is right about one thing – the Dakota Access pipeline should be built.

The benefits of this pipeline project have largely flown under the radar, avoiding coverage by most of the major media networks. Connecting American energy sources to domestic markets is crucial to the pursuit of American energy independence, which would finally end our reliance on foreign energy markets – the same reliance which many believe to be the cause of our involvement in the Iraq war. Additionally, the economic impact of the pipeline would be massive. Just during its construction, the pipeline created 12,000 jobs and can continue to provide middle class, blue-collar jobs for years to come. North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois will receive huge influxes of taxes and spending that will stimulate their economy and can fund reinvestment in schools and other government programs. It’s estimated that completion of the pipeline would result in a nearly  $5 billion increase in production and sales in the region. But when President Barack Obama’s administration, under enormous pressure from a liberal countermovement against the pipeline, declined to issue the final easement for the project, its progress was put on hold.

Protesters in recent times have flocked to North Dakota, including celebrities such as Shailene Woodley, attempting to disrupt the pipeline’s construction. They’ve cited concerns that the pipeline could traverse through ancestral Native American lands, violate the rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, contaminate their water supply and pose other safety hazards. But these concerns, while well-intentioned, simply do not hold up to a fact-based analysis. To clear up one common misconception, at no point anywhere along the pipeline’s path does it ever cross or enter the Sioux reservation. The ancestral lands that the tribe has pointed to are outside of their reservation and North Dakota’s state Historic Preservation Office concluded that there are “no significant sites affected.” In fact, when the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sued the Army Corps of Engineers over this project, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia decided that the tribe “has not shown it will suffer injury” as a result of the pipeline’s construction and denied their claim. As for the rights of the Sioux tribe, they were able to meet with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide input on the pipeline’s route as part of a coordinated effort to meet 389 times with 55 different tribes in order to respect the rights of indigenous people during the planning process for this project. Both the Missouri River and Lake Oahe, vital water sources not only to the Sioux but to the entire region, have been pointed to as sources that face potential contamination as a result of this pipeline’s operation. However, the technology used in this pipeline’s construction is extremely safe and even exceeds federal requirements for water crossings by 35 percent. While there’s always some element of risk involved in any infrastructure project, pipelines like this are a common practice and run deeply underneath water sources throughout the country. Additionally, there are already natural gas pipelines running through both bodies of water – a fact often overlooked by the mainstream media. The pipeline will also eliminate or reduce to a large degree to the current system, wherein large amounts of crude oil is transported through the region daily via rail cars and trucks, which pose their own environmental and safety concerns.

This rhetoric, fueled by environmental extremists who oppose any and all use of fossil fuels, disguises an important fact – that in this particular instance, President Trump’s executive actions are actually in the public’s best interests.

Bradley Polumbo is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].