Effective Action on DAPL

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is finally soliciting public scoping comments on the Dakota Access Pipeline. Today, we are asking you to submit your opinions.

Before we get too far, here’s a quick and dirty summary of what the heck is going on. Last year the Corps wrote an National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) document called an Environmental Assessment for DAPL, which is a one level of review below an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). By the way, if you’re interested in knowing more about the NEPA and what all the acronyms mean, check out the Council on Environmental Quality.

The Corps issued their permits and construction started. As it approached Corps property (the Lake Oahe dam, this is the “easement” you may have heard about), the protests intensified. Having already issued permits, the Corps had limited options to stop construction, so they denied access to their property.

In response to the public outcry and the brave protesters at Standing Rock, the Corps are starting the process of an EIS. That begins with scoping, where the agency asks for comments on what topics they should address in the EIS. Go here to register your comments.

An EIS - by definition - compares feasible alternatives. The options will probably be

  • A couple of different pipeline alignments, the current one and a new option or two

  • Moving crude oil by rail (already congested and not very safe)

  • Moving it by truck (TERRIBLE).

Living in a world powered by renewables will not be one of those options. The oil is going to move (for more on that, see this ProPublica piece on pipelines in the US). The questions are, what is the best outcome and how can we move towards that?

Regardless of what outcome you support, there are major problems that the Corps needs to address. First, there are spill concerns at Lake Oahe and elsewhere. Second, there are cultural resource concerns along the whole pipeline. The Corps defined their area of responsibility as only where the pipeline crosses their federal facility (two dams/reservoirs). So they didn’t look at most of the alignment, which is where many of the cultural sites are.

To make an effective scoping comment on this project, try a version of one or more of the following points:

  1. The Corps should take responsibility for cultural and sacred sites in the entire project area. Not doing so is inconsistent with 33 CFR 325, Appendix C.

  2. Water quality impacts need to be evaluated in a systematic, conservative way, consistent with the Clean Water Act.

  3. A nationwide permit is not appropriate for a project of this magnitude, and the Corps should prepare an individual permit.

Finally, we ask you to please support the Standing Rock Sioux and the other water protectors. Tribes have historically saved this country from a number of bad environmental decisions, and they are doing it again. We should show our gratitude.

You may have heard that the Trump administration has compelled the Corps to issue their final permit, the easement to operate on their property. It is unclear whether that goes into effect. In the meantime, let’s continue to show our support for the protestors and comment where we can.