Months after beginning their protests of the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline, the self-described “water protectors” at Standing Rock are looking at a recent oil spill as validation of their objections.
Earlier this month, the Belle Fourche Pipeline ruptured near Belfield, ND, spilling more than 178,000 gallons of crude oil into surrounding lands and waterways about 150 miles west of the site of the Standing Rock protests. According to an Inforum interview with Bill Suess, an environmental scientist from the North Dakota Department of Health, 130,200 gallons spilled into the Ash Coulee Creek, while 46,200 gallons leaked onto the nearby hillside.
The pipeline is owned by True Companies, a different company than the one looking to build the Dakota Access oil pipeline, but the protestors view the leak as an example of the instability of any pipeline. “The spill gives further credence to our position that pipelines are not safe,” Tara Houska, a Native American environmental activist involved in the protests, told NBC News. “Oil companies’ interest is on their profit margins, not public safety.”
Not only were the pipeline’s safety measures unable to prevent the leak, the systems in place to detect one when it occurs also failed to issue the proper warnings. “They can say they have all the latest technologies to safeguard against a leak, but when that leak happens, and it will, all those safeguards will go out the window,” Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II told NBC News.
The incident should provide the protestors with some serious firepower in their fight against the Dakota Access pipeline as well as the continued use of fossil fuels in general. Dallas Goldtooth, a member of the Dakota Nation, believes this spill should serve as a call-to-action against fossil fuels everywhere: “This should encourage everyone who believes in protecting Mother Earth that we need to examine and critique every fossil fuel project that’s being put on the table.”
Clean energy innovation is on the rise across the globe. Not only are renewable sources safer for the environment, they are also increasingly becoming cheaper. Just this past May, it was reported that clean energy jobs had surpassed oil drilling for the first time in the United States. This is an indication that our economy and our environment could enjoy a healthy symbiotic relationship in the future.