Posted 8/30/16 (Tue)
By Neal A. Shipman
Protests by Native Americans of three oil pipelines that are proposed to cross Lake Sakakawea and Lake Oahe are drawing attention to the concerns for the safety of these projects and their possible negative impacts on these bodies of water.
The biggest protest, which has drawn thousands, has to do with the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline crossing of Lake Oahe south of Mandan. But Native Americans are also opposing the construction of two pipelines by Paradigm Energy Partners that would cross Lake Sakakawea in McKenzie County.
In the case of the Dakota Access Pipeline, both sides have sought court orders to either stop the construction or for permission to resume construction on the pipeline, pending a final easement from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
In the case of the Paradigm Energy Partners’ two proposed oil and natural gas pipeline crossings, the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara (MHA) Nation has filed a lawsuit to stop the project claiming the company has failed to receive the tribes’ blessing. And Paradigm has filed a lawsuit claiming MHA has no authority to halt construction.
The common thread in both of the actions by the state’s Native Americans is their concern for the safety of their water supplies. And that is a concern that every North Dakotan should have. We all have a vested interest in ensuring the quality of waters of Lake Sakakawea and Lake Oahe. Not only do these two reservoirs provide drinking water for hundreds of thousands of North Dakotans, but these massive bodies of water also offer some of the best water-based recreational opportunities in the state.
Yes, there is reason to be concerned with pipeline failure and the subsequent environmental damage. We have seen the environmental damage that can happen when salt water pipelines have failed. But these are not saltwater pipelines.
Should there be concerns with pipelines?
Yes. But those concerns have to be tempered with the reality that pipelines are a far safer and economical way to transfer oil than by oil truck or by rail.
According to Ron Ness of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, more than three million barrels of fluid are moved safely each day in North Dakota. And nationally, there are more than 190,000 miles of petroleum pipelines traversing the U.S. with 99.99 percent of the product reaching its destination safely.
For North Dakotans, especially those of us that live and work in the oil patch, we have seen the positive impacts that pipelines have had on our lives. As companies have literally invested hundreds of millions of dollars in new pipelines, truck traffic has significantly reduced and our roads have become safer for travel.
If those who are protesting these pipelines crossing our state’s major reservoirs are indeed solely concerned with ensuring the water quality of Lake Sakakawea and Lake Oahe for generations to come, then all North Dakotans need to share their concerns.
But, if the real purpose of these protestors is to stop all energy development, which seems to be the focus of some of the groups involved, then North Dakotans need to view their actions with a jaundiced eye.