…though this pipeline has gone through every approval process, now the federal government makes the politically expedient move of trying to slow progress.
Do not read this editorial as an endorsement of the pipeline but, rather, an endorsement of a process — a process that, again, did not sneak up on the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior, etc [editorial, “Pipeline Protesters Missed Chance 2 Years Ago,” Aberdeen American News, 2016.09.13].
AAN notes that Bob Mercer and the local press covered the regulatory process that led to the nearly complete Bakken oil pipeline starting in December 2014. (I find my first blog mention of the Texas-controlled project on July 13, 2014.) Opponents had plenty of time to get involved before pipe went in the ground (though remember: Dakota Access was stockpiling steel pipe on South Dakota ground six months before the PUC held its first evidentiary hearing and nine months before the PUC greenlighted construction). AAN suggests protest now against Dakota Access smells of lazy latecomers:
But getting involved in those meetings and conversations at the conceptual stage is hard; sharing videos and expressing outrage behind a keyboard is easy [AAN, 2016.09.13].
I agree with Scott Ehrisman that opponents of the pipeline currently hashtagging #NoDAPL would have had a greater chance of stopping the project had they all descended on the March 2015 Sioux Falls City Council meetings that granted the project a vital easement near the city. But many South Dakotans, like organic farmer Charlie Johnson of Orland, have doing the hard work of participating in the process and wrestling with Dakota Access from the beginning. The PUC docket on Dakota Access, which opened in December 2014, shows dozens of concerned citizens and organizations, including the Rosebud and Yankton Sioux tribes, applying for party status to express their environmental concerns starting in January 2015.
“Sharing videos and expressing outrage behind a keyboard” is far easier than engaging in a complicated, costly, multi-state regulatory process. But the ease of that online protest does not delegitimize it. A million easy keystrokes and clicks strengthen the thousands of voices gathered at the river and spread the word that, even if you missed that informational meeting in Bowdle or that PUC hearing in Pierre, even if you didn’t hear about one prairie pipeline before it was nearly finished, you can still speak out against Dakota Access and be vigilant for future encroachments on our water and land rights.
Strangely absent from AAN’s editorial: condemnation of the Morton County Sheriff’s issuing an arrest warrant against Democracy Now! reporter Amy Goodman for covering Dakota Access security guards’ use of dogs and mace against protestors on September 3. AAN does run an AP story in which international journalism advocate Carlos Lauria calls the arrest warrant “a transparent attempt to intimidate reporters from covering protests of significant public interest.”