Fate of Dakota Access Pipeline Rests in Hands of Federal Judge
By Matt Agorist, The Free Thought Project
Earlier this month, a few dozen Native Americans showed up to protest the $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile-long pipeline that would cross right through their sacred land. As word spread, however, the few dozen turned into more than 4,000 native Americans. Because of the large turnout, a brief victory ensued for the people after the developers of the four-state oil pipeline agreed to halt construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline until after a federal hearing.
"This is bigger than a pipeline. This is about humanity."—@shailenewoodley saying #NoDAPL #RezpectOurWater https://t.co/xfSRkkQl1h— U.S. Climate Plan (@U.S. Climate Plan)1472062324.0
Before the hearing started, however, North Dakota homeland security director Greg Wilz ordered the removal of state-owned trailers and water tanks from the protest encampment, despite the sweltering heat, because of alleged disorderly conduct.
In spite of the government clamping down on them, the protesters remained vigilant. And, on Friday, they saw another victory. The Army Corps of Engineers confirmed that Energy Transfer Partners, the company constructing the Dakota Access Pipeline, does not have a written easement from the agency to build on Corps property, just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.
"That's true they don't have the easement that's required to install the segment that's across the Oahe project," said Larry Janis, Army Corps Of Engineers, according to KFYR.
Now, the project seems to be in limbo as there is no current timetable on when the easement will be granted. However, the Corps has stated that they have issued a permission that will allow for the easement to be written.
We Stand in Solidarity with #Sioux Nation to Stop #DakotaAccessPipeline https://t.co/DIOQPPNDVq @Waterkeeper @RobertKennedyJr @MarkRuffalo— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1472728823.0
Meanwhile, there is an ongoing case, which began last week in DC, that is revealing a slew of corruption. As DeSmog reports:
A review of court documents for the case currently unfolding in the U.S. District Court in Washington, DC has revealed that the tribal liaison for Energy Transfer Partners tasked with abiding by Section 106 passed through the revolving door and formerly worked for the Army Corps. The finding also raises key ethical questions in the field of archaeology.
That liaison—Michelle Dippel—technically works for a Dakota Access LLC contractor named HDR, a company which helps pipeline companies and other oil and gas industry infrastructure companies secure permits for their projects. Dippel, the South Central Region Environmental Services Lead forHDR, began her career as a project manager for the Army Corps' Fort Worth District and also formerly worked for the natural gas pipeline company Spectra Energy.
Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II, explains below how this conflict of interests allowed for the fast-tracking of the pipeline, via the New York Times:
"The Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior and the National Advisory Council on Historic Preservation supported more protection of the tribe's cultural heritage, but the Corps of Engineers and Energy Transfer Partners turned a blind eye to our rights. The first draft of the company's assessment of the planned route through our treaty and ancestral lands did not even mention our tribe.
"The Dakota Access pipeline was fast-tracked from Day 1 using the Nationwide Permit No. 12 process, which grants exemption from environmental reviews required by the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act by treating the pipeline as a series of small construction sites.
"Without closer scrutiny, the proposal breezed through the four state processes."
As news of insider deals and corruption spread, a number of protesters left the camp at Sacred Stone and descended on the law offices of Fredrikson and Byron—the firm representing the Dakota Access in court.
Protesters demanded to know why the attorneys are representing the pipeline.
"We're here to protect the water. We're here in prayer. The songs we're singing were prayer songs. So we really wanted them to answer to some of the people. Some of the Standing Rock members specifically. Why would you want to threaten their lives and their water?" said Joye Braun one of the protesters.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has every reason to be furious about the construction of this pipeline and their protest is undoubtedly just. The people of the Great Sioux Nation were betrayed by the U.S. government, who violated the nation-to-nation treaty by allowing permission of this pipeline before obtaining the tribe's free, prior and informed consent for its construction.
The Standing Rock protest represents far more than a single pipeline. It is a stand against oppression that shows the people's struggle for freedom.
.@WinonaLaduke: The #DakotaAccessPipeline ... What Would Sitting Bull Do? https://t.co/wdvGGFmNIT @LeoDiCaprio @RobertKennedyJr @MarkRuffalo— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1472563362.0
As Winona LaDuke stated in her analysis of all that is at stake, What Would Sitting Bull Do?
I am not sure how badly North Dakota wants this pipeline. If there is to be a battle over the pipeline, it will be here. For a people with nothing else but a land and a river, I would not bet against them. The great Lakota leader Mathew King once said, "the only thing sadder than an Indian who is not free, is an Indian who does not remember what it is to be free."
The fate of the pipeline now rests in the hands of a federal judge who will rule on the legality of the Dakota Access Pipeline on Sept. 9. Will the people be victorious and protect their land and remain free? Or, will their history be rewritten once again, this time, with freedom defined as everything except Big Oil's right of way?
This article was reposted with permission from our media associate MintPress News.
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Kevin T. Smiley
When hurricanes and other extreme storms unleash downpours like Tropical Storm Beta has been doing in the South, the floodwater doesn't always stay within the government's flood risk zones.
New research suggests that nearly twice as many properties are at risk from a 100-year flood today than the Federal Emergency Management Agency's flood maps indicate.
Flooding Outside the Zones<p>About <a href="https://furmancenter.org/files/Floodplain_PopulationBrief_12DEC2017.pdf" target="_blank">15 million</a> Americans live in FEMA's current 100-year flood zones. The designation warns them that their properties face a 1% risk of flooding in any given year. They must obtain flood insurance if they want a federally ensured loan – insurance that helps them recover from flooding.</p><p>In Greater Houston, however, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1539-6924.2012.01840.x" target="_blank">47% of claims</a> made to FEMA across three decades before Hurricane Harvey were outside of the 100-year flood zones. Harris County, recognizing that FEMA flood maps don't capture the full risk, now <a href="https://www.hcfcd.org/floodinsurance" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recommends that every household</a> in Houston and the rest of the county have flood insurance.</p><p>New risk models point to a similar conclusion: Flood risk in these areas outstrips expectations in the current FEMA flood maps.</p><p>One of those models, from the <a href="https://firststreet.org/flood-lab/research/2020-national-flood-risk-assessment-highlights/" target="_blank">First Street Foundation</a>, estimates that the number of properties at risk in a 100-year storm is 1.7 times higher than the FEMA maps suggest. Other <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aaac65" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">researchers</a> find an even higher margin, with 2.6 to 3.1 times more people exposed to serious flooding in a 100-year storm than FEMA estimates.</p>
What FEMA’s Flood Maps Miss<p>Understanding why areas outside the 100-year flood zones are flooding more often than the FEMA maps suggest involves larger social and environmental issues. Three reasons stand out.</p><p>First, some places rely on relatively old FEMA maps that don't account for recent urbanization.</p><p>Urbanization matters because impervious surfaces – think pavement and buildings – are not effective sponges like natural landscapes can be. Moreover, the process for updating floodplain maps is locally variable and can take years to complete. Famously, New York City was updating its maps when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012 but hadn't finished, meaning flood maps in effect <a href="https://projects.propublica.org/nyc-flood/" target="_blank">were from 1983</a>. FEMA is required to assess whether updates are needed every five years, but the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/cis/nation.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">majority of maps</a> <a href="https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2017/OIG-17-110-Sep17.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are older</a>.</p><p>Second, binary thinking can lead people to an underaccounting of risk, and that can mean communities fail to take steps that could protect a neighborhood from flooding. The logic goes: if I'm not in the 100-year floodplain, then I'm not at risk. Risk perception <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ab195a" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">research</a> backs this up. FEMA-delineated flood zones are the major factor shaping flood mitigation behaviors.</p><p>Third, the era of climate change scuttles conventional assumptions.</p><p>As the planet warms, extreme storms are becoming <a href="https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/" target="_blank">more common and severe</a>. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase at a high rate, computer models suggest that the chances of a severe storm dropping 20 inches of rain on Texas in any given year will increase from about 1% at the end of the last century to 18% at the end of this one, a chance of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1716222114" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">once every 5.5 years</a>. So far, <a href="https://www.rstreet.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/195.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">FEMA hasn't taken into account the impact climate change is having</a> on extreme weather and sea level rise.</p>
Racial Disparities in Flooding Outside the Zones<p>So, who is at risk?</p><p>Years of research and evidence from storms have highlighted social inequalities in areas with a high risk of flooding. But most local governments have less understanding of the social and demographic composition of communities that experience flood impacts outside of flood zones.</p><p>In analyzing the damage from Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area, I found that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aba0fe" target="_blank">Black and Hispanic residents disproportionately experienced flooding</a> in areas beyond FEMA's 100-year flood zones.</p><p>With the majority of flooding from Hurricane Harvey occurring outside of 100-year flood zones, this meant that the overall impact of Harvey was racially unequal too.</p><p>Research into where flooding occurs in Baltimore, Chicago and Phoenix points to some of the potential causes. <a href="https://www.nap.edu/read/25381/chapter/4#16" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">In Baltimore and Chicago</a>, for example, aging storm and sewer infrastructure, poor construction and insufficient efforts to mitigate flooding are part of the flooding problem in some predominantly Black neighborhoods.</p>
What Can Be Done About It<p>Better accounting for those three reasons could substantively improve risk assessments and help cities prioritize infrastructure improvements and flood mitigation projects in these at-risk neighborhoods.</p><p>For example, First Street Foundation's risk maps account for <a href="https://firststreet.org/flood-lab/research/flood-model-methodology_overview/" target="_blank">climate change</a> and present <a href="https://floodfactor.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ratings</a> on a scale from 1 to 10. FEMA, which works with communities to update flood maps, is <a href="https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1521054297905-ca85d066dddb84c975b165db653c9049/TMAC_2017_Annual_Report_Final508(v8)_03-12-2018.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">exploring rating systems</a>. And the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recently <a href="https://www.nationalacademies.org/news/2019/03/new-report-calls-for-different-approaches-to-predict-and-understand-urban-flooding" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">called for a new generation of flood maps</a> that takes climate change into account.</p><p>Including recent urbanization in those assessments will matter too, especially in fast-growing cities like Houston, where <a href="https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1boBRyDvMFW6W" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">386 new square miles</a> of impervious surfaces were created in the last 20 years. That's greater than the land area of New York City. New construction in one area can also <a href="https://scalawagmagazine.org/2018/01/city-in-a-swamp-as-houston-booms-its-flood-problems-are-only-getting-worse/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">impact older neighborhoods downhill</a> during a flood, as some Houston communities discovered in Hurricane Harvey.</p><p>Improving risk assessments is needed not just to better prepare communities for major flood events, but also to prevent racial inequalities – in housing and beyond – from <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/03/05/688786177/how-federal-disaster-money-favors-the-rich" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">growing</a> after the unequal impacts of disasters.</p>
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