Native Americans condemn the Dakota Pipeline, the law doesn’t

merrill matthews

According to environmental activists, the Dakota Access Pipeline Project crushed Native American rights, heritage — and objections. But the federal judge presiding over the case says the pipeline company and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have been diligent and respectful in their efforts to address Native American concerns.

I’m with the judge on this one.

The pipeline will transport 470,000 barrels of domestically-produced crude oil daily 1,200 miles from the Bakken shale formation in northwest North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa, to Illinois refineries.

The majority of the almost-complete pipeline is on private land and needs no federal permits. But it needs Corps permits where it crosses a number of waterways and sits near culturally sensitive areas.

Enter the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe — trying to scuttle the pipeline — aided and abetted by outside activists, including Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, who defaced private property for a photo-op and subsequently earned an arrest warrant.

The tribe claims the Corps didn’t consult it, but U.S. District Judge James Boasberg wrote in his September opinion that the Corps reached out to the tribe multiple times with little to no response. “The Tribe largely refused to engage in consultations,” the judge said. Eventually, the tribe responded, but at the last-minute effort to stop all progress.

The tribe also claims the pipeline ignores Indian heritage lands. The judge disagreed, noting the company used “past cultural surveys” to avoid historic sites, and it “mostly chose to reroute” where “unidentified cultural resources… might be affected.”

The judge concluded, “the pipeline route had been modified 140 times in North Dakota alone to avoid potential cultural resources.”

That’s accommodation, not exploitation.

The Dakota Access Pipeline also intentionally parallels a natural gas pipeline that’s been around for years.

According to Judge Boasberg, “Dakota Access chose this route because it had ‘been disturbed in the past — both above and below ground level'” making it less likely that “new ground disturbances would harm intact cultural or tribal features.”

In short, the judge rejected the tribe’s claims with well-documented reasons.

If the tribe really wanted safety, it’d embrace pipelines. Scientific American points out that 2.5 million miles of U.S. “pipelines are roughly 70 times safer than trucks when it comes to transporting fuel.”

The article notes that many of those pipelines are aging. That’s exactly why you want companies building new pipelines with the latest technology and environmental protections.

But the issue was never about safety of the protesters. Raising concerns about endangered Indian historic sites is a tactic the left is using to achieve its larger goal: ending fossil fuels.

President Obama asked the pipeline company, Energy Transfer Partners, to delay construction, but an appeals court cleared the way for continuation in limited areas — and the company decided it would.

Regardless of who wins in the Dakota Access pipeline battle, this won’t be the last of the anti-pipeline demonstrations. The media have widely and favorably covered the protests, so protesters are targeting other pipelines. Celebrities are flying in on their private jets so they can get involved — and photographed.

Those who believe we need fossil fuels — at least for the foreseeable future — to power our economy and protect us from foreign threats need to resist these radical efforts.

We’re already protecting our cultural heritage. This fight is about protecting our way of life.

Merrill Matthews is a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation in Dallas, Texas. Follow at