Economic boom comes with a price

Cristina Gunther, Staff Contributor

The oil industry is perhaps one of the most influential enterprises globally. With America’s increasing demand for oil and other fossil fuels, coupled with hostile tensions in the Middle East (a huge global provider of oil), it has never been more important for these companies to find and drill for the prized moneymaker right here at home. After all, doing so will reduce prices for consumers. Fortunately, there has been a fairly recent discovery of a large abundance of oil in the otherwise barren state of North Dakota.

However, in order to facilitate the refinery and transportation of this resource, a plan to build a 1,172 mile oil pipeline (spanning the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois) has been proposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This pipeline will also cross parts of North Dakota where Native Americans live.

Not too long after the proposal, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sued the Corps, claiming that the pipeline “threatens the Tribe’s environmental and economic well-being, and would damage and destroy sites of great historic, religious, and cultural significance to the Tribe.”

An advocacy group for the pipeline says the tribe’s claims are misleading, stating the pipeline “does not cross into the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation.”

Ultimately, the U.S. Court of Appeals denied the injunction that would halt the construction of the pipeline, so the work began despite the Native Americans’ outcries.

Members of the tribe and others who wish to fight with them have since been tirelessly protesting at the Standing Rock reservation (where construction is currently underway) as well as at the North Dakota capitol. There have been marches, picket signs, and chants all in favor of preserving the Native American culture as well as the environment, which is another major aspect many believe the pipeline will severely endanger.

Due to the protests, police have been quick to respond to the situation, making numerous arrests. This issue was brought to light when actress Shailene Woodley, along with at least 27 other protesters, was arrested while attempting to blockade the construction at two different worksites. Woodley livestreamed the entire event on social media in order to make a statement: it takes a famous white actress to get arrested before there is much publicity towards the issue.

The protests are still ongoing as the construction continues, but other advocacy groups are raising more concerns, mainly about the environment and the different ecosystems the pipeline will cross as a whole. At one point, the pipeline will go under the Missouri River bed, which critics claim might lead to an oil spill that will contaminate the river as well as the other bodies of water it flows into, including the Mississippi River and, eventually, the ocean. However, the construction continues.

“They shouldn’t build near a reservation; they should know better. There are plenty of other places, yet this is someone’s home.” says senior Maddie Johnson. “What if someone came to you and said, ‘Okay, we’re going to build a pipeline right through your house?’”

“How does someone even have the audacity to do this? We’ve done enough to these people,” adds senior Julia Vanhouten.

Either way, the construction is still ongoing despite the claims of the natives and environmentalists. It goes to show there really can’t be economic success without a huge price for someone.