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Dakota Access Pipeline Standoff: Mni Wiconi, Water is Life


The controversial Dakota Access Pipeline project is back in the news. Over the weekend, tribal activists faced off against lines of police in Hunkpapa Territory near Cannon Ball as construction crews prepared to break ground for the new pipeline, while Standing Rock Sioux governmental officials resolved to broaden their legal battle to stop the project.

On July 26, 2016 the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe was stunned to learn that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had given its approval for the pipeline to run within a half-mile of the reservation without proper consultation or consent. Also, the new 1,172 mile Dakota Access Pipeline will cross Lake Oahe (formed by Oahe Dam on the Missouri) and the Missouri River as well, and disturb burial grounds and sacred sites on the tribe’s ancestral Treaty lands, according to SRST officials.

Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners will build, own and operate the proposed $3.78 billion Dakota Access Pipeline and plans to transport up to 570,000 barrels of crude oil fracked from the Bakken oil fields across four states to a market hub in Illinois. The pipeline—already facing widespread opposition by a coalition of farmers, ranchers and environmental groups—will cross 209 rivers, creeks and tributaries, according to Dakota Access, LLC.

Standing Rock Sioux leaders say the pipeline will threaten the Missouri River, the tribe’s main source of drinking and irrigation water, and forever destroy burial grounds and sacred sites.

“We don’t want this black snake within our Treaty boundaries,” said Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II. “We need to stop this pipeline that threatens our water. We have said repeatedly we don’t want it here. We want the Army Corps to honor the same rights and protections that were afforded to others, rights we were never afforded when it comes to our territories. We demand the pipeline be stopped and kept off our Treaty boundaries.”

On July 27, SRST filed litigation in federal court in the District of Columbia to challenge the actions of the Corps regarding the Dakota Access pipeline. The suit seeks to enforce the tribal nation’s federally protected rights and interests. The nation is seeking a preliminary injunction to undo the Corps’ approval of the pipeline at a hearing on August 24. The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and several other native nations have asked to join the lawsuit.

On August 8, Dakota Access called the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to give 48-hour notice that construction would begin on August 10 for an access corridor and staging area where pipes and other equipment will be stored for construction.

As news of the planned construction spread via social media among tribal citizens and activists, a grass-roots gathering assembled at what is now being referred to as the Sacred Stone Camp where people are holding the line to stop construction. After Dakota Access workers began clearing an area for preliminary pipeline work, several hundred protestors gradually assembled at the site, prompting law enforcement to intervene and arrest more than a dozen people. Among those were Chairman Archambault and SRST Councilman Dana Yellow Fat, who quickly posted bond and were released.

“We have a voice, and we are here using it collectively in a respectful and peaceful manner,” Archambault said. “The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is doing everything it can legally, through advocacy and by speaking directly to the powers that be who could have helped us before construction began. This has happened over and over, and we will not continue to be completely ignored and let the Army Corps of Engineers ride roughshod over our rights.”

Archambault said the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples requires free, prior and informed consent for development impacting Indian land, territories and waters.

“We have a serious obligation, a core responsibility to our people and to our children, to protect our source of water,” he said. “Our people will receive no benefits from this pipeline, yet we are paying the ultimate price for it with our water. We will not stop asking the federal government and Army Corps to end their attacks on our water and our people.”

The proposed construction route is within a half-mile of the tribe’s reservation border, sparking concerns for protection of cultural resources that remain with the land. Hunkpapa religious and cultural sites are situated along the route of the pipeline, including burial sites of ancestors.

“The land between the Cannonball River and the Heart River is sacred,” said Jon Eagle Sr., STST’s Tribal Historic Preservation Officer. “It’s a historic place of commerce where enemy tribes camped peacefully within sight of each other because of the reverence they had for this place. In the area are sacred stones where our ancestors went to pray for good direction, strength and protection for the coming year. Those stones are still there, and our people still go there today.”

Eagle worries that the pipeline will harm many tribal nations along the Missouri.

“Wherever the buffalo roamed our ancestors left evidence of their existence and connection to everything in creation,” he said. “The aboriginal lands of the Oceti Sakonwin extend as far west as Wyoming and Montana, as far north as Canada, as far east as the Great Lakes, and as far south as Kansas. Construction along this corridor will disturb burial places and cultural sites.”

According to the recently filed “motion for preliminary injunction” by the SRST, Dakota Access initially considered two possible routes: a northern route near Bismarck, and a southern route taking the pipeline to the border of the Standing Rock reservation. Federal law requires the Army Corps to review and deny or grant the company’s permit applications to construct the pipeline. The southern route takes the pipeline across the Missouri River and Lake Oahe, implicating lands and water under federal jurisdiction.

In the initial environmental assessment, the maps utilized by Dakota Access and the Army Corps did not indicate that SRST’s lands were close to the proposed Lake Oahe crossing. The company selected this route because the northern route “would be near and could jeopardize the drinking water of the residents in the city of Bismarck.” The Army Corps of Engineers has not issued a public response to the newly filed litigation or protest. In a statement that appeared in a May 4 story in the DesMoines Register, Col. John Henderson, commander of the Corps’ Omaha District said, “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is not an opponent or a proponent of the project. Our job is to consider impacts to the public and the environment as well as all applicable laws, regulations and policies associated yet with this permission and permit review process.”

An Energy Transfer spokesperson said, “It is important to note that Dakota Access does not cross any reservation land and is compliant with all regulations regarding tribal coordination and cultural resources. We have communicated with the various tribes that have an interest in the DAPL project as we recognize the traditional range of the Native Americans and their sensitivity to historic ranges for cultural properties. We are confident the USACE has adequately addressed the portion of the project subject to their review and where a NEPA analysis is required. They are the experts in this area, and we believe they have done an excellent job addressing any comments received to date.”

Tribal leaders and environmental activists say the company’s draft environmental assessment of December 9, 2015 did not mention that the route they chose brings the pipeline near the drinking water of tribal citizens. In fact, it omitted the existence of the tribe on all maps and analysis, in violation of environmental justice policies.

Great Sioux Nation Defends Its Waters From Dakota Access Pipeline

While federal law requires meaningful consultation with affected Indian nations, SRST governmental officials allege that didn’t happen despite numerous requests by the nation. Since they first heard of the proposed project in 2014, SRST leaders have voiced strong opposition to company, state and federal officials, and to Congress.

They met with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of the Interior, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to discuss the harm imposed by the pipeline. All three agencies subsequently wrote letters to the Army Corps expressing environmental and cultural resource concerns related to the pipeline.

Archambault said they’ve been working on many levels for more than seven months to stop construction. But the tribe and the three federal agencies were apparently ignored by the Army Corps, which moved ahead with permits for the pipeline.

In addition, Standing Rock youth ages 6–25 from the reservation vowed to run to Washington, D.C. to deliver a petition with 160,000 signatures on opposing the pipeline to the President of the United States. After running for 2,200 miles, they were able to meet with Army Corps officials and hold rallies along the way; they returned home on August 10.

Standing Rock leadership has also put out the call to Indian country to stand in support of protecting their water, land and people. Dozens of Indian nations have already written letters and resolutions to support the Lakota people.

As for the growing number of people at the grassroots rally, Archambault publicly asked that everyone be peaceful and respectful of one another in the coming days.

“We want peaceful demonstrations and I need everyone to understand that what we are doing, in the manner we are doing it, is working,” he said. “By being peaceful and avoiding violence we are getting the attention needed to stop the pipeline.

The emphasis was on peace as a Lakota man smudged police officers at the scene of an ongoing protest at the construction site of the Dakota Access oil pipeline in North Dakota.

“We’re getting the message out that all the wrongdoing that’s been done to Indian people will no longer be tolerated,” he said. “But we’re going about it in a peaceful and respectful manner. If we turn to violence, all that will be for nothing. I’m hoping and praying that through prayer and peace, for once the government will listen to us.”

Archambault also honored the Lakota youth who want to make a better future in his message.

“Our youth carry powerful messages when they speak, and we respect our youth and listen to them,” he said. “We honor and support the youth, runners, elders, campers, and supporters, and we are thankful for all the important efforts they’re making to protect our water.”

In the midst of an ongoing effort by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other entities to prevent construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the company Dakota Access LLC has begun construction of the 1,150-mile project, which will carry crude oil from western North Dakota to Illinois.

Construction has begun in North Dakota, South Dakota and Illinois, but not yet in Iowa, where regulators have declined to allow construction just yet. In consideration of the environmental impact of the project and other safety concerns, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has not yet issued permits for the project to cross the Missouri River—Standing Rock’s main water source—or the Mississippi.

Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault insists that the fight to stop the pipeline has not come to an end and that the tribe and its allies will continue to exercise their rights to ensure that consideration of the health and well-being of the citizens of the Great Sioux Nation will be taken into consideration by the Army Corps of Engineers and other influential entities.

“The start of construction by Dakota Access will not deter us,” Archambault said in a statement. “To the contrary, the Tribe will continue to press forward, to demonstrate that the Corps has not adequately consulted with the Tribe regarding cultural resource issues, and has not adequately addressed the risk of an oil spill that would harm the Tribe’s waters. The Tribe is dedicated to the protection of our Treaty rights, our Reservation lands, and our people—and we will ensure that the federal government upholds its trust responsibility when it makes its decision regarding the Dakota Access pipeline.”


Protected: Portland, Oregon, Has A Lead Problem. Children Are Paying The Price.

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THE AIR WE BREATHE: Dangerous contaminants found hovering over Portland


Studies find much of Portland’s air worse than rest of nation

On a hazy summer day, sometimes you can see toxic substances in Portland’s air. In some neighborhoods throughout the year, you can smell them.

Some Northwest Portland residents report they can even taste the metallic tinge that toxics leave on the palate, and they stay indoors to avoid it, even on hot days.

While toxic air can make your daily life miserable, it also can give you cancer, as eastside residents recently learned after revelations of cadmium and arsenic lurking in their air for who knows how long, much of it apparently from two small glass companies.

Over the past two weeks, many residents have been troubled by a series of maps, generated from DEQ data, showing concentrations of various toxics in the air. However, a map created for the Portland Tribune using EPA data on cancer risks, shows that almost every neighborhood has air contaminated by dangerous levels of carcinogenic heavy metals and chemical compounds.

Though that news is bad enough, it gets worse. On Dec. 17, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released data indicating that Portland’s air-quality problems extend far beyond the neighborhoods near the glass companies.

The National Air Toxics Assessment shows that Portland’s airshed is bursting with a toxic stew consisting of dozens of heavy metals and chemical compounds, including 49 that are carcinogenic. The assessment was based on raw data collected in 2011 that took several years for the EPA to analyze and compile.

“There are hot spots here and there, but, generally, there’s an elevated risk throughout the Portland area,” says Kevin Downing, the Clean Diesel Program coordinator for Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality.

The EPA looked at human health impacts from estimated exposure to outdoor sources ranging from tailpipes to industrial smokestacks. The agency examined the cancer risk from breathing 40 different toxic chemicals found in diesel exhaust — thought it didn’t assess the cancer risk from breathing tiny particles of soot from that exhaust. That’s because the EPA, unlike many other health and environmental agencies around the world, has determined there are no health studies that it considers suitable for estimating diesel’s cancer potency.

As a result, critics say the EPA is dramatically underestimating the deadly potency of the nation’s — and Portland’s — air.

Even so, says one of those critics, Portland Clean Air founder Greg Bourget, the EPA data still makes it clear that Portland’s toxic air is dangerous throughout the city, and is among “the worst in the country.”

Portland is a major manufacturing center and, as a port city, a destination for freight trucks, trains and ships. Its hilly geography acts as a mixing bowl that traps the dangerous compounds emitted by industry and vehicles.

Portland also is relatively compact because of its urban growth boundary, so many people wind up living close to industrial and high-traffic areas, says Corky Collier, executive director of the Columbia Corridor Association. Collier says he’s not surprised by the latest EPA data showing widespread toxins in the air over Portland, and suspects diesel emissions are a major factor.

It’s unclear how the air quality has changed since the EPA’s 2011 air sampling. But since the end of the Great Recession, traffic, manufacturing and business activity have increased.

More cancer risks here

Some cancers are caused by genetic factors, but the World Health Organization estimates that half are caused by environmental factors, like air pollution, and are preventable. The EPA estimates that Portland’s air is capable of causing between 26 and 86 extra cancers per 1 million people. In six census tracts near the city center, this cancer rate is worse than 99 percent of the country.

The EPA encourages people to use the results of its assessment “cautiously,” due to uncertainties in the data, limitations in computer models, and variations in data collection methods from location to location. Nevertheless, the database shows that the air in only 58 of the nation’s 3,200 counties is deemed capable of causing more cancer than in Multnomah County. One of them is King County in Washington. The 24 carcinogens detected in Seattle’s air are capable of causing an estimated 166 extra cancers per 1 million people. The nation’s worst air, according to the database, is found in New Orleans, where 39 airborne carcinogens are capable of causing an estimated 826 extra cancers per million people.

The database shows that while the heaviest concentration of carcinogens in Portland’s air are found in the downtown area, dangerous levels can be detected in every neighborhood throughout the city. Some of the heaviest concentrations occur along freeways, where diesel trucks belch a brew of carcinogens in their exhaust, as well as downwind from industrial polluters.

The DEQ also has prepared maps of air toxics in the area, though it factors in particulate matter from diesel as a carcinogen. Its maps also show widespread toxic air throughout the city.

Cancer is not the only health concern related to foul air. The EPA detected dangerous levels of another 17 toxics in Portland’s air, such as the acrid industrial chemical acrolein, which causes respiratory diseases like asthma. Portland’s air also is a dumping ground for low levels of lead, mercury and manganese, each of which can cause neurological and cognitive disorders in children, even at extremely small concentrations.

Neighbors target ESCO

Breathing the air in parts of Portland can be a little like drinking the water in Flint, Mich.

The EPA calculates that about 1,315 pounds of lead is dumped into Portland’s air yearly. Much of the lead enters the residential neighborhoods of Northwest Portland, including the Pearl District. The ESCO steel foundry at Northwest 25th and Vaughn Street can dump up to 207 pounds of lead into the air every year under its air pollution permit. Certain fuels and railroad locomotives also are sources of lead contamination in Portland, according to the EPA.

The air in parts of Northwest Portland violates a health-safety benchmark for lead, with unknown health impacts on residents, according to the DEQ. Many doctors believe there are no safe levels of these metals.

ESCO says that its lead emissions stem from recycling old scrap metals, which sometimes contain lead. In the near future, its emissions are likely to go down as the company closes two of its three plants, says company spokeswoman Scenna Shipley. Along with lead, mercury and manganese, ESCO releases 37 different types of toxic air pollution, according to the DEQ, including hexavalent chromium, cadmium and formaldehyde.

From 2009 to 2011, the DEQ attempted to reduce the amount of toxic chemicals in the air through its Portland Air Toxic Solutions project, which identified unhealthy levels of 14 toxic compounds in the city’s air. But after a lengthy series of meetings, studies and public hearings, the project failed to find any solutions, disappointing many residents who demanded action.

Residents of Northwest Portland have been fighting a battle against toxic air for at least 20 years. In 2012, a citizen group, Neighbors for Clean Air, led by activist Mary Peveto, reached a Good Neighbor Agreement with ESCO, requiring the company to perform “technological fixes,” Peveto says. However, she notes that the agreement did not specify how much pollution ESCO would be required to cut. Neither the agreement nor the DEQ required ESCO to stop emitting lead.

“They wouldn’t tie themselves to a reduction standard,” she says. “They agreed to take technology implementation actions. Then they agreed that we would be able to verify that each of those actions was implemented fully and was meeting intended goals. They would not agree to a number that said we are going to reduce pollution by x amount.”

All of the actions that ESCO agreed to were added to its air pollution permit, which is enforced by the DEQ.

Scenna says ESCO is still working on technological upgrades to reduce air pollution.

“We’re still actively engaged on that front through the Good Neighbor Agreement,” she says.

Chevron targeted

The Northwest neighborhood achieved a more clear-cut victory over pollution in 2001, when two residents, documentary filmmaker Sharon Genasci and her husband, Don Genasci, sued Chevron for releasing massive amounts of toxic vapors from its gasoline storage facilities near the west end of the St. Johns Bridge.

At the time, the DEQ often issued ozone alerts that warned the entire city about unsafe air caused when toxic vapors reacted with the heat from sunlight. These alerts often occurred on days that Chevron refilled its storage tanks with gasoline pumped from river barges. These gasoline transfers from barges allowed massive amounts of toxic vapors to escape. A settlement of the lawsuit forced Chevron and several other gasoline companies to control this pollution.

In addition, the Genascis won a $75,000 judgment, which they spent on monitoring the neighborhood’s air pollution. This monitoring formed the basis of a concerted campaign for cleaner air that continues to this day.

Sharon Genasci, who investigated the air pollution in an award-winning documentary, “What’s in the Air?” today says the neighborhood’s air seems “just as bad as ever,” despite the ESCO agreement.

Until the toxic air is cleaned up, she adds, Portland’s reputation as a clean, environmentally sustainable city is more myth than reality.

“It’s so ironic, so infuriating,” she says of the recent revelations about carcinogens in Portland’s air attributed to glass companies. “Those are the same emissions we were complaining about 20 years ago, and nobody lifted a finger to help us.”


In December, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its National Air Toxics Assessment, documenting measurable amounts of 49 carcinogenic substances in Portland’s air.

The multiyear study analyzed air samples from 2011, so some conditions have changed since then.

Here are the cancer-causing toxics the EPA detected in Portland air:

# 1,1,2-Trichloroethane, used in laboratory research

# 1,2-Dibromo-3-chloropropane, a banned pesticide

# 1,3-Butadiene, found in diesel exhaust

# 1,3-Dichloropropene, a pesticide

# 1,4-Dichlorobenzene, a pesticide

# 1,4-Dioxane, an ether

# 2,4-Dinitrotoluene, found in polyurethane foams

# 2,4-Toluene diisocyanate, found in polyurethane foams

# 2-Nitropropane, used in inks, paints, adhesives

# Acetaldehyde, found in diesel exhaust

# Acrylamide, used to manufacture various polymers

# Acrylonitrile, used to manufacture plastics

# Allyl chloride, an alkylating agent

# Arsenic compounds, found in diesel exhaust, ESCO emissions

# Benzene, found in diesel exhaust, ESCO emissions

# Benzidine, used to produce dyes

# Benzyl chloride, a plasticizer

# Beryllium compounds, found in diesel exhaust

# Bis (2-ethylhexyl)phthalate, found in diesel exhaust

# Bromoform, a solvent

# Cadmium compounds, found in diesel exhaust, ESCO’s emissions

# Carbon tetrachloride, found in diesel exhaust

# Chloroprene, used to produce synthetic rubber

# Chromium vi (hexavalent), found in diesel exhaust, ESCO’s emissions

# Epichlorohydrin, used to produce glycerol

# Ethylbenzene, found in diesel exhaust

# Ethylene dibromide, found in diesel exhaust

# Ethylene dichloride, found in diesel exhaust

# Ethylene oxide, found in diesel exhaust

# Ethylidene dichloride, a solvent

# Formaldehyde, found in diesel exhaust, ESCO’s emissions

# Hexachlorobenzene, found in diesel exhaust

# Hexachlorobutadiene, used as a solvent

# Hydrazine, used in specialty fuels

# Methyl tert-butyl ether, found in diesel exhaust

# Methylene chloride, found in diesel exhaust

# Naphthalene, found in diesel exhaust, ESCO’s emissions

# Nickel compounds, found in diesel exhaust, ESCO’s emissions

# Nitrobenzene, found in diesel exhaust

# O-toluidine, found in diesel exhaust

# PAH/POM, found in diesel exhaust, ESCO’s emissions

# Pentachlorophenol, a fungicide

# PCBs, used in coolant fluids

# Propylene oxide, used in polyurethane plastics

# Tetrachloroethylene, used in dry-cleaning

# Trichloroethylene, a solvent

# Vinyl chloride, used to produce pvc

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