OPINION: Why the Dakota Access Pipleline is ‘environmental racism’

Danelle Granger, ARTS & CULTURE EDITOR

The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protest is based on protecting the drinking water of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The pipeline is being built under Lake Oahe, near the Missouri River — their main source of drinking water.

The protests have been taking place since January of 2016, when the pipe- line was approved.

Environmental racism is an import- ant thing to understand when talking about the DAPL. It’s defined as racial discrimination against people in low-income or minority communities who are forced to live in proximity of environ- mentally hazardous places. Often, this means that indigenous people who were allocated specific parcels of land at colonization have to deal with living close to things like tar sands, pipelines, and all sorts of mines.

The DAPL was rerouted from just north of Bismarck, North Dakota, because of the threat of spills and leaks contaminating the municipal water supply. But, rerouting it near the Standing Rock Sioux’s main water supply, though the threat is the same, has been accepted by government and the oil company.

This is environmental racism, and if it’s still a concept that doesn’t seem like it exists, look at Shoal Lake 40. This is their 19th year living under a boil water advisory. Shoal Lake 40 was purposely isolated when Winnipeg built the aquifer that supplies the city water. They became an artificial island, with no stable access to the mainland. They have no water and sewage treatment centre to date. The city of Winnipeg essentially killed their economy by isolating them, making imports and exports nearly impossible. This is an example of racism, because the people and resources of Shoal Lake 40 were treated as disposable.

But people support oil projects because they see how our economy depends on them. The thought of living without oil seems ludicrous to some. People argue that if you’re going to reject the pipeline, you have to reject using gas in your car and plastic materials. This argument misses the important points of creating a healthy economy.

An economy can’t depend on one thing. That leaves people with all their eggs in one basket. Considering oil is not a renewable resource, these eggs will inevitably run out. And while we use them up, the detrimental impacts on the environment may spoil our other options for energy resources.

Ideally, there is an environmentally safe, stable and sustainable way to live that doesn’t include oil or fossil fuels. But like with buying a car, we’re invested. We’ve spent $30,000 on the thing. And it’s what takes us to work to earn more money, for now.

Oil is one of the major contributors to the Canadian and United States governments making money. The current relationship between oil companies and the federal government is one of profit. For now, both parties are profiting off of oil production in Canada, which involves pipelines to transport it throughout North America. These profits come without any form of carbon tax, or any firm regulation on paying for environmental reparation or responsibility. Companies don’t have to pay the full price to clean up their messes.

Just like with a car, we have to invest more and more over time to keep pro- duction running. And as the price of oil decreases, as it has over the past five years, that car will cost more and earn us less.

And in the meantime, the environ- mental mess spreads. Oil spills happen often, and to date, there is no consistent safety system proven to detect when a spill starts. And there’s no proven clean-up method for after spills, either.

In 2013, a Tesoro Corp. pipeline ruptured near Tioga, North Dakota, spilling 840,000 gallons of fracked oil, according to EcoWatch, an environmental news site.

The Belle Fourche pipeline, only 150 miles away from Standing Rock, ruptured at the beginning of December and spilled 176,000 gallons of crude oil into a creek, according to the Associated Press.

Closer to home, in Saskatchewan, an oil spill leaked 250,000 litres of crude oil into the Saskatchewan River before Husky Oil, the pipeline company, could catch and clean the spill. In total, the clean up cost about $90 million.

Spills are inevitable, are difficult to catch, and cost a lot of money. They’re just one of the increasing costs of in- vesting in oil. Building another pipeline, like the Dakota Access Pipeline, or the Kinder Morgan Pipeline, doesn’t just contribute to environmental racism. It contributes to the fragility of the Canadian economy, while damaging the health of people and other resources that could bring our economy to life.