The Standing Rock protests, which lasted for nearly a year, have come to an end. For months, members of the Sioux Tribe, along with protestors from around the country, held firm in a small encampment off the banks of the Missouri River, where they had gathered to protest the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). At its peak, 10,000 people had gathered at the site in a show of solidarity, backed by 200 Native American tribes. Just north of the Sioux reservation lay burial grounds sacred to the tribe, which occupies land they claim was illegally sequestered in an 1886 treaty.
Driven by concerns that the pipeline might burst and contaminate local waters downstream, adjacent to the Standing Rock reservation, as well as pollute sacred sites to the North, the Sioux decried the pipeline’s construction, which had been undertaken without their consultation, technically illegal under U.S. law. Their numbers swelled throughout the summer, but as winter approached, conditions became dire. Despite a halt to the construction given by the Obama administration in September of 2016, the situation remained tense. Private security pepper-sprayed and allowed dogs to attack protestors, and several waves of arrests were made by local authorities. Enforcements were sent in to bolster the ranks of police on site, equipped with riot gear, military grade vehicles, pepper spray, beanbag bullets, and stinger balls.
Then, on the night of November 20, as protestors attempted to remove two trucks forming a barricade on a bridge, police responded by deploying tear gas, a hail of rubber pellets, and unleashing a water cannon on protestors in temperatures that dropped to well below freezing. Infuriated by the violence, 2,000 U.S. veterans pledged to travel to Standing Rock in order to offer their support and to act as human shields to ensure the safety of Sioux Tribe members and other protestors. Then, two weeks after the night of violence, the Army Corp of Engineers officially denied the final easement to Dakota Access, LLC, which, if given, would have allowed for the final completion of the pipeline. This was the major victory that protestors had been fighting for. Their work done, people left the camp in droves until only a few remained. Within days of President Trump’s election, however, executive orders were given to revive both the DAPL and the previously stalled Keystone Pipeline, effectively overturning everything that had been accomplished.
Their numbers dwindled, the Sioux Council willingly passed a resolution to close down the protest camps, not only due to eminent flooding now that the winter snows were beginning to melt, but also due to the burden the large influx of people had on nearby reservation towns. But the final order of eviction came from the Army Corp of Engineers, who gave the remaining protestors until February 22 of 2017 to leave; ten people were later arrested for failure to do so, marking the end and ultimate defeat of the protests that had taken place there.
With the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone Pipeline now eminent, what do we potentially have to lose?
How Common Are Oil Spills?
The day after Trump signed executive orders to revive the Keystone Pipeline and expedite the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the very thing protestors had feared occurred in a small town in rural Iowa, where a pipeline carrying diesel fuel burst and began leaking onto farmland.
Though the pipe was only 12 inches in diameter, the contents of these pipes are under pressure, meaning that massive amounts of oil can spill out into the environment in a very short amount of time. This particular spill leaked upwards of 138,000 gallons of oil into the surrounding area. Nor was this an isolated event; the company that owns the pipeline, Magellan, has had several similar incidents in the last seven years alone.
In October of 2016, a Magellan pipeline transporting ammonia burst, killing one person and causing 23 households to be evacuated. In 2010, Magellan was required to pay $46,200 in reparations for a 5,000 gallon diesel spill that had leaked into a nearby stream, violating the Clean Water Act (a recent provision to the Clean Water Act is currently being attacked by the Trump administration). They were fined another $418,000 the same year for another oil spill in Oklahoma.
And that’s just one company. As of 2015, there are over 73,000 miles of crude oil pipeline in the United States. Since 2000, over 970,000 gallons of oil have leaked due to spills, 370,000 of which was unrecoverable by cleanup crews. Since 2010 alone, there has been a total of 4,269 pipeline incidents reported, 64 of which resulted in at least one fatality.
What Happens to the Oil That Remains in the Environment?
Crude oil spills are toxic to several types of living organisms, and while oils spills in marine and aquatic ecosystems cause the most damage, they can have severe deleterious effects on land as well. Contact with oil can negatively impact the degree to which mammals can insulate themselves, leading to hypothermia and death. Even a slight amount of oil on a bird’s feathers is enough to cause death as well. Several types of adverse effects can by caused by inhalation of fumes by animals, such as damage to the liver and lungs as well as the central nervous system. If an oil spill makes its way into a nearby body of water, such as a lake or river, it can cause massive die offs and pollute the drinking water of nearby residents.
Oil spills also pose a threat to endangered species, such as the whooping crane, whose wintering habitat was compromised in 2014 due to an oil spill in Galveston Bay. The Center for Biological Diversity estimates that 12 endangered species will be threatened by the Keystone Pipeline alone, including the American burying beetle, interior least terns, northern swift foxes, and pallid sturgeons.
With the Dakota Access Pipeline slated to be up and ready for operation by April 1, it’s likely that the NODAPL protests have come to an end. But what the Sioux Tribe and other protestors accomplished was no small feat; by standing up for the environment and the rights of Native people, a disparate group of protestors made their voice heard and got the federal government to halt the completion of the pipeline along its scheduled path.
Even though that decision has been overturned, it brought national awareness to the issue and a momentum that can be used to fight against future projects. As the new head of the EPA begins to dismantle existing regulations put in place to protect the environment, the most helpful thing everyone can do is raise their voice. Contact your representatives to voice your concerns and vote in state, local, and federal elections.
Lead image source:Mike Shooter/Shutterstock
Carrying our groceries in plastic bags, drinking water from plastic bottles, how often do we really stop and think about where those convenient things came from and – more importantly – where they go once we are done using them? Unfortunately, most of the plastics we use end up in the oceans where it is driving around 700 marine species toward extinction. Seeing as we produce around 300 million tons of this material every year, if we hope to help these animals, we need to cut plastic – and STAT.
Luckily, public awareness about the problem of plastic is now greater than ever and social media, especially, is doing wonders for our collective environmental consciousness. Or, to be specific, it is the people behind such social media accounts that make all the difference – like the creators of Plastic Menace.
Plastic Menace is an organization whose mission it to get people to learn the truth about plastic. In order to help relay their message to the masses, Plastic Menace has an Instagram account full of stunning graphics illustrating important, and often unknown, facts about the production, use, and waste management of plastic.
The graphics draw attention to the many dangers of using PET bottles – something that is often completely overshadowed by convenience. Polyethylene Terephthalate, abbreviated as PET, is the most common material utilized for containers and bottles.
PET plastic contains harmful chemicals that tend to migrate from the plastic itself into the container’s contents, like our juices and sodas. That makes plastic bottles not only harmful for the environment but also very directly dangerous to our health.
Using plastic is a matter of convenience – but is it worth it? Once you know about the dangers associated with plastic, you will probably be more likely to choose better right? The problem is this information is rarely given due attention.
Plastic never really disappears – after hundreds of years it gets broken down into smaller parts, but it does not biodegrade. That means that once we throw plastic away, it is going to stay there, polluting our planet, virtually forever.
Plastic Menace also highlights how dangerous this material is to marine life. Around 8.8 million tons of plastic gets thrown into the oceans every year. Consequently, around 700 marine species are in danger of becoming extinct because of the various risks of plastic waste, like entanglement and ingestion.
Plastic waste is one of the most serious issues we have to face today, but thanks to groups like Plastic Menace, the facts and solutions are becoming more well-known to the public. Since spreading awareness is a key to mobilizing change, we hope that those fascinating graphics will reach as many people as possible! To keep up with Plastic Menace on Instagram, click here.
If you’re ready to start removing plastic from your daily routine, check out One Green Planet’s #CrushPlastic campaign for tips on how to do it!
Let’s #CrushPlastic! Click the graphic below for more information.
Enbridge, the company responsible for the biggest inland oil spill in the U.S. and part owner of the Dakota Access Pipeline, wants to double the capacity of tar sands coming to the US from Canada on its Alberta Clipper pipeline. Submit a public comment!
An oil pipeline has ruptured, spilling 600,000 gallons of toxic oil into the environment. This massive spill is destroying the ecosystem, which may never fully recover. Demand that the oil company responsible for the spill be held accountable.
When we start to look for it, we quickly find there is a literal sea of distressing environmental news flooding our phones and computers every day. Seeing this deluge of negativity, it’s easy to start to lose faith. But the winners of the Bow Seat’s 2016 Ocean Awareness Contest reminds us that we have the power and the creativity to change the course of our oceans’ fate. Bow Seat is an organization dedicated to, “inspire[ing] the next generation of ocean caretakers through education and engagement with the arts, science, and advocacy.” As a part of this mission, Bow Seat hosts The Ocean Awareness Contest. Every year, they ask middle schoolers and high schoolers across the world to submit a piece of artwork addressing ocean pollution and the challenges we face going forward. They say a picture is worth 1000 words, and these images speak volumes. Here are a few of some of the compelling pieces centered around ocean plastics from the 2016 winners.
This piece is titled, “Message in a Bottle” by Jessica Yang. It shows how the 40 billion plastic bottles we put in landfills every year make their way into our oceans and affect marine life.
We have a responsibility to future generations to maintain our most precious resource. These children clearly see the danger plastic poses to our oceans and marine life – we owe it to both these young ones and animals to stop our reckless behavior and prevent plastic pollution. Join One Green planets #CrushPlastic movement to learn about easy ways that you can help to save our planet’s oceans and the animals that live in them.
Let’s #CrushPlastic! Click the graphic below for more information.
Sunday’s brutal police assault against peaceful Dakota Access Pipeline activists left one water protector, Sophia Wilansky, at risk of losing an arm, and her distraught father spoke out Tuesday and Wednesday against the shocking show of force and demanded government action.
Wayne Wilansky, a 61-year-old lawyer and yoga teacher from New York City, spoke to a reporter in a Facebook live feed about his daughter’s devastating injury, allegedly caused by a concussion grenade.
“This is the wound of someone who’s a warrior, who was sent to fight in a war,” Wayne said. “It’s not supposed to be a war. She’s peacefully trying to get people to not destroy the water supply. And they’re trying to kill her.”
Most of the muscle tissue between Sophia’s left elbow and wrist as well as two major arteries were completely destroyed, Wayne said, and doctors pulled shrapnel out of the wound.
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Stop Trump from bringing back fossil fuels.
‘They Always Break!’ Latest Pipeline Leak Underscores Dangers of DAPL
Posted on October 26, 2016 by GJEP staff
A major crude oil pipeline in Oklahoma sprung a leak late Sunday night; the company has yet to provide an estimate of volume spilled
By Deirdre Fulton
Underscoring once again the dangers of America’s unreliable fossil fuel infrastructure, a significant U.S. oil pipeline has been shut down after a leak was reported Monday morning.
Enterprise Products Partners said Monday it had shut its Seaway Crude Pipeline, a 400,000-barrel per day conduit that transports crude oil from Cushing, Oklahoma to Gulf coast refineries. The leak occurred Sunday night in an industrial area of Cushing. The company did not provide an estimate of the volume spilled, but said there was no danger to the public.
“Oil pipelines break, spill, and leak—it’s not a question of if, it’s a question of where and when.”
—Anna Lee Rain YellowHammer, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
“Seaway personnel continue to make progress in cleaning up the spill, substantially all of which has been contained in a retention pond at Enbridge’s facility,” the company said in a news release (pdf), explaining that the pipeline is a “50/50 joint venture” between Enterprise and Enbridge Inc. “Vacuum trucks are being used to recover the crude oil and return it to storage tanks on-site.”
“The impacted segment of the legacy pipeline has a capacity of 50,000 barrels,” the release added, “however the actual amount of crude oil released will be significantly less and won’t be determined until recovery efforts are complete.”
The incident comes after another pipeline rupture in Pennsylvania early on Friday, where 55,000 gallons of gasolinepoured into the Susquehanna River, and about one month after a major gasoline pipeline run by Colonial Pipeline Co. had to halt pumping for a couple of weeks due to a spill in Alabama.
Meanwhile, UPI reports that “[t]he release from the Seaway pipeline is the second associated with the Cushing storage hub in less than a month. Plains All American Pipeline reported problems with infrastructure from Colorado City [Texas] to Cushing earlier this month.”
Environmentalists, Indigenous people, and energy companies are in the midst of a heated debate over pipeline safety. Water protectors and their allies along the proposed route of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) have been saying for months that the project threatens their right to safe drinking water.
“Oil pipelines break, spill, and leak—it’s not a question of if, it’s a question of where and when,” 13-year-old Anna Lee Rain YellowHammer, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, wrote in a recent appeal.
“With such a high chance that this pipeline will leak,” she wrote of the Enbridge-backed DAPL, “I can only guess that the oil industry keeps pushing for it because it doesn’t care about our health and safety. The industry seems to think our lives are more expendable than others’.”
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The US EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) states that the US “EPA had authority, sufficient information to issue emergency order protecting Flint residents from lead-contaminated water as early as June 2015“. Nonetheless, Regina “Gina” McCarthy, head of the US EPA since July of 2013, decided to let Flint drink lead. More recently the US EPA, under her rule, has determined that Americans should drink highly radioactive water, when a nuclear accident occurs – one can’t say if, the question is only how quickly the next nuclear accident occurs: https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2016/07/22/gina-mccarthy-says-let-them-drink-radioactive-water-100s-and-1000s-of-times-the-legal-limit-or-dehydrate-gina-and-moniz-dance-the-nuclear-waltz/
(We recommend that you watch the video on mute. The background music is inappropriate and appears trance inducing.)
“As Common Dreams previously reported, the EPA’s region 5 office knew as early as April 2015 that Flint’s public drinking water was contaminated with high levels of toxins, particularly lead… some Flint residents still don’t have access to clean…
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The next administration will need to act fast. Methane poses a significant threat to our public health and our climate — it’s 87 times more potent than carbon dioxide when it comes to disrupting our climate over a 20 year period.
Send an email by June 16th to stop new oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and protect sea turtles and dolphins.