Why Has Mainstream Media Ignored Dakota Access Pipeline?

Unlike the Keystone XL pipeline that received national attention in 2011 and 2012, the Dakota Access Pipeline has garnered almost no interest in major media and therefore less attention from the general public. It is likely no accident that this project began without the fanfare – and the opportunity for scrutiny from the public.

What Is the Dakota Access Pipeline and Who Is Behind It?

The Dakota Access Pipeline, the project of Energy Transfer Partners, is a $3.8 billion pipeline designed to transport crude oil from the Bakken Formation region of northwestern North Dakota in a south-easterly direction, ending in southern Illinois to be refined.

The company constructing the pipeline is Dakota Access, LLC, is a subsidiary of the larger Energy Transfer Partners, a Fortune 500 natural gas and propane company headquartered in Dallas, Texas and founded in 1995.

In the video below, Democracy Now!, one of the first news sites to cover the DAPL, enumerates the investors in the nearly $4 billion project:

Dakota Access, LLC, explains that “light, sweet crude oil” will be piped 1,136 miles, through four states, to reach refineries in Illinois where it will become available to “decrease American dependence on foreign oil.”

What has been left unsaid is that until just recently, when the OPEC nations agreed to reduce oil production and thus increase the price of oil through the theory of supply-and-demand, American oil companies and their investors, as well as the overall stock market, were taking a financial hit from the glut of crude oil production overseas. While it’s true that all of America could become somewhat less dependent on foreign oil, American consumers would then become more dependent on American oil producers who could set production, and prices, wherever they choose.

Map of North Dakota public domain National Atlas of the United States via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Map of North Dakota, Public Domain, National Atlas of the United States via Wikimedia Commons


Site Choice for Dakota Access Pipeline

The DAPL project has been ongoing since 2014, with decisions to be made whether to follow a pipeline route that would go through the state capital, Bismarck, or the site currently chosen, closer to the Bakken formation (http://geology.com/articles/bakken-formation.shtml) and taking the pipeline within half a mile of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation, something not indicated on the early project maps provided by Dakota Access, LLC.

Sioux reservation map; Kmusser - self-made, using National Atlas data and original treaty descriptions., CC BY-SA 2.5

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Reservation map Kmusser – self-made, using National Atlas data and original treaty descriptions., CC BY-SA 2.5

Could one reason for the choice to build the pipeline closer to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation have been the difference in population numbers between Bismarck, with 67,000 residents versus the reservation with 8,000 residents? Should there be a pipeline leak in the years to come – and there hasn’t been a pipeline that hasn’t leaked at one time or another – whose drinking water would be impacted by the leak; which situation would likely cause the less controversy than the other?

Is there a facet of American society that has been more marginalized than Native Americans, at just 1.7 percent of the total population?

U.S. Courts, U.S. Senators and Obama Administration Involvement, Still No Word From Mainstream Media

Despite the lack of fanfare and mainstream media attention, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has stood up to DAPL, Energy Transfer Partners, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in resisting the construction of the pipeline that they maintain endangers Lake Oahe, their only source of clean water, and threatens tribal burial grounds and cultural relics.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has been joined by more than 300 other Native American tribes, a historical first, in their efforts to stop construction of the pipeline near their reservation. Environmentalists from around the United States have joined in the effort, with politicians such as Sen. Bernie Sanders calling for a halt of pipeline construction until a full review of the circumstances can be accomplished.

Related Reading: Artists Plan Benefits for Water Protectors

The Obama Administration via the Departments of Army, Interior and Justice intervened on Sept. 9, 2016, to halt pipe construction near or under Lake Oahe after a U.S. District Court ruled against the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s request for an injunction halting DAPL construction.

And in another decision from a U.S. District Court on Oct. 9, 2016, which once again upheld the earlier court’s ruling on refusing the same injunction, the court’s decision read in part:

“But ours is not the final word. A necessary easement still awaits government approval – a decision Corps’ counsel predicts is likely weeks away; meanwhile, Intervenor DAPL has rights of access to the limited portion of pipeline corridor not yet cleared – where the Tribe alleges additional historic sites are at risk. We can only hope the spirit of Section 106 may yet prevail.”

Green Party Candidate Jill Stein, Democracy Now! journalist Amy Goodman, and actress Shailene Woodley, along with several Native Americans and others, have been charged in the peaceful protests against DAPL. Goodman, who was working as a journalist covering the Labor Day weekend protests, is being considered for charges of participating in a “riot” by a North Dakota state prosecutor, flying in the face of journalism’s First Amendment rights.

All of this information is generally newsworthy in mainstream media – a substantial number of “big players” are involved, and yet millions of Americans are unaware of the Dakota Access Pipeline project or the protests against its construction. Until mainstream media joins in the coverage of this topic, readers and viewers will need to seek information through secondary, although not necessarily lesser, media outlets.



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