Washington, DC — Protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline resumed one day after Donald Trump shocked most prognosticators by winning the U.S. presidential election. In Washington, DC, people gathered in Farragut Square in the early evening on Nov. 9 to express their opposition to the construction of the $3.8 billion pipeline and the financial institutions that are providing loans to its developers.
Several people marched from the downtown park to a nearby branch of Bank of America to protest the Charlotte, NC-headquartered bank’s loan of $375 million to the pipeline developers. Activists across the nation are hoping constant pressure will convince banks to opt out of bankrolling the 1,172-mile pipeline, which would carry crude oil produced in the Bakken fields of North Dakota across four states, with an end point in southern Illinois.
In Farragut Square, protesters expressed concern about the decision to route the pipeline system through Native American lands in North Dakota, including under the Missouri River. Leaders of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose reservation is located about 50 miles south of Bismarck, ND, contend the pipeline could threaten their sole water source.
Eula Dyson, a Maryland resident who has friends on the Standing Rock reservation, lamented that pipeline construction crews have succeeded in getting almost the entire pipeline built in the contested region, except for the Missouri River crossing. “That’s the final piece,” Dyson said at the protest. “I grew up in south Louisiana. I know what oil is all about, the destruction caused by the oil industry to the environment down there.”
As proposed by Energy Transfer Partners, the lead developer of the pipeline, the Dakota Access system would cross the Missouri River less than a mile north of the Standing Rock reservation. An early proposal for the pipeline called for the project to cross the Missouri River north of Bismarck, but one reason that route was rejected was its potential threat to Bismarck’s water supply.
Joshua Pena, who had never attended a protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline, decided to join the Nov. 9 action in solidarity with Native Americans. “I’ve been seeing the repression of these people for so long. What we’ve done to them over the past several hundred years is absolutely embarrassing and disgraceful. And the fact that in this day and age, we continue to exhibit the exact same behaviors is unacceptable,” said Pena, who lives in Vienna, Va.
The original path of the Dakota Access Pipeline “was going to go through some white people’s land and they complained about it and so they re-routed it to go through the Native American land because apparently their rights aren’t as important as the white people are,” he said.
Niki Carroll, who lives in Purcellville, Va., and was also attending her first protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline, felt it was important to express her support for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. “When a white community said they did not want the Dakota Access Pipeline to go near their community and the developers decided to re-route it through Native American lands, it was typical of what settler culture has always done,” Carroll said.
Protesters Urge Banks to Withdraw Support
None of the banks financing the Dakota Access Pipeline has backed away from the project. But Citigroup reportedly has raised concerns over the project with Energy Transfer Partners and called for greater engagement with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. Environmentalists have targeted banks in other campaigns. Banks such as Barclays, ING and Deutsche Bank have opted not to finance projects that involve mountaintop removal mining. JPMorgan Chase announced earlier this year it would no longer finance new coal-fired power plants in the United States but the move could be related to the declining profitability of investing in coal as opposed to concerns over climate change.
Pena does not believe Hillary Clinton, if she had won the election, would have helped to stop the pipeline project. “I think either Clinton or Trump would have had approximately the same policy in this regard. They’re both owned by the same people. They’re both answering to the same type of people. Neither of them would have made a change. If we would have seen Jill Stein as president, absolutely the pipeline would have been stopped in an instant,” he said.
Dakota Access Pipeline supporters have noted that the pipeline would follow a similar route to an existing natural gas pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. The Northern Border Pipeline, operated by TransCanada Corp., crosses the Missouri River near Dakota Access Pipeline’s proposed river crossing. Supporters have questioned why the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe did not protest Northern Border’s proposed Missouri River crossing at Lake Oahe when it was built decades ago.
But Pena does not see a double-standard in the Standing Rock Sioux tribe opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline project. “An oil spill would be orders of magnitude more devastating to the environment and the water than a natural gas rupture would. There’s no comparison,” Pena said.