by Greyson Van Arsdale, ’17

An oil pipeline from North Dakota to Illinois concerns Native Americans and environmentalists

The North Dakota Access Pipeline, which is set to be functional this year, has become a point of contention between environmentalists and oil companies.

The 1,172 mile long pipeline, running between the states of North Dakota and Illinois, would transport about 470,000 barrels of crude oil per day. Proponents say that it reduces dependency on foreign oil and provide a more direct route to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

However, on Sept. 16, a federal appeals court halted construction of a section of pipeline in order to consider the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s request for an emergency injunction. The tribe, working with environmental activists, fear that an oil leak from the pipeline could threaten their water supply. The tribe holds that the company building the pipeline, Dakota Access LLC, did not consult them about building through their water supply and sacred grounds. Many Native Americans and allies have flocked to the encampment north of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, causing the largest gathering of Native Americans in a century.

Dakota Access LLC did not comment on the court’s decision to halt construction of the section of pipeline.

On Oct. 9, the appeals court ruled to reject the Sioux tribe’s request to halt the construction of the pipeline, after several months of construction being postponed.

“This ruling puts 17 million people who rely on the Missouri River at serious risk,” Dave Archambault II, Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said in a press release after the appeals court’s ruling was made.

The court acknowledged that their ruling was not the final word, and that the decision truly rests in the hands of the Corps of Engineers.

In spite of this ruling, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and the thousands in solidarity with them, remain hopeful that the construction may yet be stopped.