AAN: Feds Should Not Stop Dakota Access, Opponents Should Pay Attention, Act Sooner

The Aberdeen American News finds the Obama Administration’s intervention in the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline unacceptable:

…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.”

36 Responses to AAN: Feds Should Not Stop Dakota Access, Opponents Should Pay Attention, Act Sooner

  1. Richard Schriever

    One correction – as I understand it the DAPL in fact does NOT have ALL of its necessary approvals. The Corps of Engineers says it has NOT issued the written findings and approvals for crossing the Missouri. Indeed, that seems to be the basis of authority for the Obama admins. halting construction there.

  2. Darin Larson

    A process that allows inspectors to be paid stooges for the contractor installing the pipeline is not a process that anyone should be endorsing, let alone a newspaper editorial board.

  3. mike from iowa

    construction of the Dakota Access pipeline unacceptable: Fixed it for you.

    What is unacceptable is allowing out of state and/or foreign companies to basically take private land for their own use.

    AAN and others need to disabuse themselves of the notion that whatever is good for korporate amerika is good for the rest of us-body and soul. (attributions to A.B. Guthrie Jr for stealing part of this passage from his Pulitzer Prize winning novel-The Way West)

  4. Paul Seamans

    I attended at least nine days of PUC hearings on the certification of the Keystone XL. Even though President Obama had denied the Presidential Permit the PUC commissioners went ahead and approved the KXL permit in January.

    I attended at least two days of PUC hearings on the DAPL. In this case Daugaard had stacked things in his favor by appointing State Treasurer Rich Sattgast to take Kristie Fiegen’s place because she had a conflict of interest. Attending hearings and meetings doesn’t seem to affect how the PUC decides on their dockets.

    It’s even worse in North Dakota. The governor appoints the three commissioners to the Public Service Commission, they are not elected. It is pretty obvious that Gov. Dalrymple is in favor of oil development. The Indian people are used to negotiations with the federal government. They have very little contact with state governments. They tend not to trust state government. This effort to stop the DAPL by the Standing Rock people is one of the few avenues that is open to them. They are dealing with federal agencies rather than wasting their time trying to deal with the state agencies.

  5. The stories coming out of the Spirit Camp differ greatly from what is being reported by the news networks. I imagine there is quite a bit of spinning on both sides. It would be nice to know what is really going on.
    I can understand the frustration of the protesters, i too have attended public meetings and have testified against projects with facts and evidence that it would be harmful to the community, and yet been totally ignored because my views do not fit with the agenda.
    Getting involved in the early stages of discussion is the best way, however it makes no difference what is said if the project is pre-approved by the great deity Economic Development.

  6. Well stated Mr. Seamans, I would also like to add that Governor Dalrymple is not only in big oil’s pocket, he is an adviser to Trump. That in itself means there is a racist slant to whatever comes out of his mug. Indian people know that state government is not an equal when negotiating contracts and that is why the sovereign to sovereign has to be initiated. The Army Corp of Engineers is not a state outfit run by the governors, it is federal, run by you know who. Without the blessing of the Corps and it does not seem like that was achieved to even begin the process of work. http://www.mvs.usace.army.mil/Portals/54/docs/emergencymanagement/408%20Public%20Notices/OD-R%2015-009%20DAPL%20Public%20Notice.pdf

    AAN has every right to their opinions but they seem to have lost track of the facts, so that makes their opinion on this incomplete. Of course, why let the facts get in the way of the politics of support for one Chris Nelson.

  7. Donald Pay

    I’m of the opinion that you have to do it all. You have to pay attention and get involved. Earlier is better, but whenever you do it is better than not doing it at all.

    You do have to contest everything and at every venue. Showing up at hearings when you know the deck is stacked is very, very hard to do, but you have to do it. You have to protest and petition for redress of grievance. You have to sue. And you have to ignore the dippy editorials from folks who don’t understand that that grassroots folks aren’t getting paid six or seven figures, like the pipeline lawyers and principals, to sit on top of hack politicians and PUC commissioners.

    When I was doing this stuff, we knew we had no chance to win at any of the hearings. Corruption runs deep and long in South Dakota. We knew if we got the issue before the people, we had a chance. Has there been any effort to put some of these eminent domain laws that make it easy for the pipeline companies on the ballot?

  8. Paul Seamans

    Donald Pay, I don’t know of any serious effort to put eminent domain reform on the ballot. There should be. As it now stands all a pipeline company has to do to gain the power of eminent domain is to declare that they are a common carrier. Nothing more.

  9. Mary, Quite Contrary

    Maybe you could fill in some gaps for us as to how Dakota Access is “connected” to Keystone XL which had Trans Canada behind them. And I think Trans Canada for some length of time has had depositories of pipe around the state. Arlington has a huge Trans Canada warehouse which I always assumed was full of pipe—and maybe other stuff. I had been thinking that Dakota Access was just Keystone XL/Trans Canada dressed up with new clothes on. Maybe someone can fill me in on that.

  10. mike from iowa

    Common carrier of lies and false information. Maybe a bit of payola for the pols.

  11. mike from iowa

    The Bakken pipeline or Dakota Access Pipeline is a 1,134-mile-long (1825 km) underground U.S. oil pipeline project for crude oil being planned by Dakota Access, LLC, a subsidiary of the Dallas, Texas corporation Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. to begin in the Bakken oil fields in Northwest North Dakota, travel through South Dakota and Iowa before ending in Patoka, Illinois.

    TransCanada is a Canadian corporation.

  12. I believe AAN and Donald is correct. The time to protest and cause a fuss about these projects is when they are being planned and going through approval process. It is much easier and cheaper to make change on paper while they are planning the project then it is change it when the pipe is being laid.

  13. As the pipe is already in the ground, leave it there, buried. Maybe it will become useful for water lines or something less hazardous than oil. When you make the mistake of not getting all of your permits in construction, you have to pay the penalties, including removal. Ask any general contractor, DAPL should not be treated any differently.

  14. Vance Feyereisen

    This is for Mary, Quite Contrary

    The other day Amy Goodman had a program tying all the big banks, big oil companies and pipeline outfits all together concerning Dakota Access.

    If you go to Democracy Now! or maybe google Amy Goodman you should be able to find it.

  15. Paul Seamans

    MC, Dakota Access should have waited to lay pipe until they had their permit from the Army Corps of Engineers. They should also have done proper consultation with the tribes and they should have done a proper cultural resource survey. These are the things holding DAPL up now. If DAPL had done things properly before hand then protestors wouldn’t have as much of a case.

    If DAPL ends up with two sections of pipe in the ground with no way to connect them then they only have themselves to blame.

  16. Mr. Seamans, this summer on the road construction by Murdo, South Dakota, someone made a mistake on the concrete mix for the interstate and about a mile of it had to be torn back up as it was not done with proper consultation. This DAPL is no different, that is the risk you take on being the general contractor. Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you.

  17. Paul, Donald, give me one Session in the Senate. I’ll offer eminent domain reform, per suggestions from our past blog discussions. Maybe it will be easier to pass something in the Legislature than place a measure on the 2018 ballot.

  18. MC, I will quibble with one word in your statement. You say “the time to protest” is the planning and approval stage. I agree that is “a time to protest,” maybe even in a fair system “the best time.” But when, as Donald notes, the process is stacked against us, we have a right to seek other times to protest, other venues and actions to achieve our goals.

    And as Jerry and Paul note, parts of the approval process remain to be done. Dakota Access has done a lot of work without completing its process. It began plunking down pipe and forcing landowners to settle for easement payments under threat of eminent domain before they had PUC approval. As Paul says, “the time for Dakota Access to start operations is after it has all necessary permissions to build the entire project. If Dakota Access can build so prematurely, why can’t protestors act so… postmaturely?

  19. Paul Seamans

    And I will be there to lobby and testify in committee, Cory.

  20. Thanks, Paul! You and other supporters can start reviewing our and Senator Frerichs’s bill text from the 2016 Session:


    I’ll seek your input on possible revisions for 2017. I could also use your help electing more allies to push that bill through committee!

  21. Paul Seamans

    Bret Clanton and I testified in committee on Jason’s bill.

  22. Remind me: why did the committee (including the Senator I will replace, David Novstrup) vote to kill Jason’s bill? What changes might make the bill more passable?

  23. AAN is just playing footsie with Trump on this deal. Did they endorse him yet? http://www.ecowatch.com/trump-dakota-access-pipeline-1998966014.html Hamm is gonna be his Secretary of Energy so there is that. Wonder when Hillary is going to step up. Bernie did today and put it back on Obama’s plate so there are powerful forces at work here.

  24. Alas, Jerry, our paper is being wienies and not endorsing any candidates.

  25. Paul Seamans

    Cory, I’m sure that the 80% threshold was a problem. That 80% was probably started that high with the thought that it could be amended downwards. Hell, I would settle for 50% or even less.

    The awarding of eminent domain to anyone who declares common carrier status was probably instituted back on the days of the railroads. It needs to be changed to something like maybe applying to the governor or the PUC before the power of eminent domain is awarded.

  26. 50% seems awfully low. We’re talking about taking away basic property rights; it seems that should take more than a majority vote. Don’t conditional use permits require consent of all adjoining landowners?

    I like 80%; I’ll compromise, but not all the way to 50% + 1.

    I’ll also be happy to explicitly define “common carrier” not to include private pipelines. Maybe that definition change would obviate the need for a landowner consent threshold?

  27. Paul Seamans

    Cory, I had to go back and reread Jason Frerichs’ bill to refresh my memory. Chris Nelson likes to say that he tries to stay away from the legislative process. Well, in this case Chris attended the committee hearing and testified against Jason’s bill. Chris’ main argument was against the part about a corporation needing all of their permits before the PUC can issue a permit.

    I testified in favor of the bill. I don’t think that my testimony carried the weight of a sitting PUC commissioner. I need to do a little more smoozing with the good ole boys.

  28. I’m pretty sure most every Native group knows, through experience, that working with the state of South Dakota on matters like this has traditionally been a futile waste of time and energy. I cannot blame them one bit for focusing their efforts on the Federal level. The time frame they worked within doesn’t matter when it comes to defending their rights.

    The weakest argument one can make is, “I agree with what they are doing, I just don’t like how they are doing it.” I think the people who critique the time of their protests are mostly trying to make this about “how” they’re doing it.

  29. AAN should just follow the money trail, maybe they have and this is their contribution. http://www.democracynow.org/2016/9/9/who_is_funding_the_dakota_access

    What you see are some interesting characters in this mess. A lot of banks that will get this oil to their home countries as we will not see a friggin drop of it util it spills. AAN is playing a fools game and they should know it.

  30. Chris Nelson’s PUC’s legacy, pipelines leak, they always will http://www.al.com/news/birmingham/index.ssf/2016/09/gasoline_pipeline_spill_cleanu.html Here we go again in a river in Georgia.

  31. Wait a minute, Paul: Pipeliners get to go to landowners and force them to surrender their land before they get PUC approval? Why can’t it work the other way: before pipeliners can invoke eminent domain, they have to demonstrate they have all the permits?

  32. mike from iowa

    They ain’t a horse that can’t be rode, or a pipeline that can’t be blowed.
    Damn liar! A pipeline that doesn’t get assembled will never leak.
    Rehabilitated pipeline sections make dandy culverts.

  33. mfi, that is the talk we need. “Damn liars” Regular folks understand that. When they hear things like bigots and bigotry, many of the voters among us do not know the meanings of the words. For the hell of it, ask them, I have. You call someone a damn liar or a damn racist spreading fear and hate, you get their attention because they clearly understand that.

    Cory asks the right question about why can the pipeline come to the landowner and demand access to their property before they even have the clearance to make route? We hear about state’s rights from right wingers all the time, what about the rights of property owners? Whose rights are they speaking of if not for those that control the land? If they can come and force you to make a deal, why do we even have locks on our doors? Hmmm, when I read my questions, they seem so 1851 and 1868.

  34. Paul Seamans

    Cory, I agree, the process is bass ackwards. TransCanada was threatening me with eminent domain in Spring, 2008. They didn’t get their PUC permit until June of 2010.

  35. Standing Rock Tribal Chairman David Archambault II in Geneva, Switzerland addressing United Nations on Human Rights today. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dW0d_WsuL0Y The world is more than aware of what now is going on regarding our drinking water and how the PUC has sold us out in South Dakota to the attack dogs of the oil companies.