You Almost Get the Idea That We’ve Never Built a Pipeline Across a River Before


Protest organizer Kristen Kelsch hold a sign and chants across the street from the State Capitol in Bismarck on Thursday. A line of police prevented Kelsch and others from hold the protest to the Dakota Access Pipeline on the Capitol grounds

As the protests aimed at stopping the Dakota Access Pipeline, as a means toward ending oil development generally, continue we are inundated with claims that the pipeline represents a risk to clean water.

That was certainly the argument from the protesters yesterday who migrated north to the state capitol in Bismarck from where they have been harassing pipeline workers and law enforcement along the pipeline route near the Standing Rock reservation .

“We can’t drink oil, keep it in the soil,” the crowd chanted according to Bismarck Tribune reporter Nick Smith.

Note, again, that this isn’t so much an anti-pipeline sentiment as an anti-oil position. That’s an important distinction. These protesters aren’t motivated by concerns over the permitting this particular pipeline project. They want to keep the oil in the ground. Remember, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe didn’t bother to show up to a single one of the Public Service Commisson’s hearings on the pipeline during the 13-month approval process.

That speaks volumes.

But I digress.

Setting aside the rabid anti-oil stuff,  problem with their ostensible pipeline arguments is that America already has thousands of pipelines which cross rivers all over the country. That’s what this map from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration shows us:


You can see an interactive map of liquids pipelines here. You’ll note that there are several of those sort of pipelines which cross the Missouri River already.

I think we all want to see reasonable concerns about pipeline safety addressed. After all nobody – not the oil industry, not the pipeline companies, nor any person in the public with control of their faculties – wants leaks. Particularly into a body of water as large and important as the Missouri River.

That said, can anyone honestly say that the position these protesters are taking is reasonable? The Dakota Access Pipeline crossing the Missouri River isn’t some unprecedented feat of engineering. This is something that has been accomplished many times before, and safely too.

News today is that Energy Transfer Partners, who are building the Dakota Access line, originally consider a route which went north of Bismarck but rejected it because if a leak should occur there it would have a greater impact than a more southerly route. That’s evidence of a responsible sort of consideration for the impacts of this pipeline.

The sort of thing which has allowed pipeline companies to build across rivers for generations while America’s rivers continue to flow clean.

But, again, I think we maybe need to put aside the phony notion that these protests are motivated by the safety of the pipeline. That’s a convenient excuse. The real motivation is hatred of oil.

And you don’t have to take my word for it. Just listen to the protesters – particularly the out-of-state extremists who have air-dropped themselves into this local issue – and read their signs.