STATEMENT regarding the dakota access pipeline

To President Barack Obama, the United States Department of Justice, the Department of the Interior, and the Army Corps of Engineers:

As winter settles into North Dakota and many “water protectors” head home to be with their families for the holidays, we, the members of Environmentalists of Color, write to convey our continued support for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their efforts to oppose the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). We commend the Army Corp of Engineers for their December 4, 2016 decision to deny the current easement for pipeline construction underneath Lake Oahe. However, we know that with a changing administration the decision could be reversed or the pipeline could be rerouted without proper environmental or cultural review. 

Climate change caused by the human extraction and burning of fossil fuels is recognized internationally as the most profound environmental threat of our time. The construction of the DAPL enforces this threat and opposes the commitments set by the Paris Agreement to cut fossil fuel emissions by 2030. The DAPL, expected to carry half a million barrels of crude daily, will emit an additional 215,000 metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each day. In addition to threatening our air and climate, the DAPL threatens precious freshwater resources. Over time, the pipeline is at risk of leaking and threatening freshwater resources. Even conservative estimates admit to regular oil leaks, which will impact drinking water of not only the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, but water quality downstream for the roughly 18 million Americans in 50 cities that rely on the Mississippi River watershed for their daily water supply. We applaud the efforts of “water protectors” at Standing Rock for exercising their right to constitutional assembly and using legal pathways to protect our collective natural resources.

Historically, the victims of environmental degradation are disproportionately the poor and people of color. It is also true that when people of color stand up against injustice and exercise their first amendment right, they are routinely faced with excessive force and militarized responses. Hundreds of “water protectors” at Standing Rock suffered militarized assaults in the form of rubber bullets, mace, compression grenades, beanbag rounds, tear gas, and water cannons in freezing temperatures. Over 300 hundred people were injured on the night of November 20 alone. The treatment of the “water protectors” by law enforcement was unacceptable and denounced by Amnesty International and the United Nations.

In light of these facts, EOC respectfully asks that you:

  1. Require Dakota Access, LLC to halt pipeline construction until revised environmental and cultural assessments are carried out, in accordance with federal environmental regulations;
  2. Include and engage the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe as valuable stakeholders in all permitting decisions, in accordance with international indigenous peoples rights;
  3. Support the Department of Justice to conduct a full investigation into the use of excessive force by law enforcement agencies in North Dakota;
  4. During the 2017 revision of the Nationwide Permit 12 (NWP 12), consider the incorporation of existing environmental justice tools such as EJSCREEN (Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool) to promote stakeholder engagement.

We have faith that you and the agencies involved are allies to both people of color and our Earth. Thank you for considering our position on this important environmental justice matter.

Environmentalists of Color

Environmentalists of Color (EoC) is an interdisciplinary network of leaders of color working in a range of environmental fields, from habitat conservation to environmental justice. We are environmental scientists, educators, engineers, activists, land managers, and policy makers of color united to find solutions for our most pressing environmental problems.