Completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, and Defeat of the #NoDAPL Movement, Is a Win for the Rule of Law


Indigenous leaders participate in a protest march and rally in opposition to the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

According to a report from my colleague Amy Dalrymple, the much-protested Dakota Access Pipeline should be completed next week.

That’s a big deal for the company which has fought for the project through years of regulatory process and legal battles. That’s a big deal for the State of North Dakota too. The pipeline is hugely important infrastructure for oil development in our state. Typically North Dakota oil is at a disadvantage in the marketplace because of the high transport costs associated with moving it out of the state. This pipeline will help with that, and help oil production in our state be more resilient to lower prices.

But perhaps the most important victory with the pipeline’s completion will be the triumph of law and process over extremism and violence.

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s objections to the pipeline, rooted in the historical injustices done those proud people in years past, was taken over by activists who oppose the pipeline simply because they oppose the production and use of oil (a position the tribe doesn’t share, I should add). This latter group sought to advance their goal of blocking the pipeline with violence and chaos.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]The Dakota Access Pipeline will be completed, and that’s good news for everyone in favor of safe and responsible energy development.[/mks_pullquote]

They had a willing partner in President Barack Obama who allowed these extremists to camp illegally on federal property, who denied North Dakota law enforcement officials the assistance of federal resources, and who protracted the fight over the pipeline with a thoroughly political decision to deny issuance of an easement the non-political staff at the Army Corps of Engineers had already come down in favor of.

The activists, with an assist from the White House, attempted a perverse use of a regulatory process intended to produce safe, responsible energy infrastructure to block construction of the same.

And why not? Such tactics had worked to kill or delay other projects, notably the Keystone XL and Sandpiper projects. Had they succeeded in blocking the Dakota Access project as well you have to wonder if any company in America would be willing to risk building new pipelines again.

Which investors would want to sign up to fund a project which could be canceled, or delayed indefinitely, on a political whim?

But the extremists didn’t win. Their violence didn’t stop construction. Their political machinations came to an abrupt halt when Democrats lost the White House.

The Dakota Access Pipeline will be completed, the #NoDAPL movement has lost, and that’s good news for everyone in favor of safe and responsible energy development. It’s not only new and badly needed infrastructure for the North Dakota oil fields, but a signal that it is possible to complete this sort of project even in the face of a gale of dissent from extremists.

And make no mistake, we need to build new oil pipelines. Not only to help domestic oil producers compete against OPEC and others in a global market, but to ensure that oil transport isn’t dependent on older pipeline infrastructure.

The completion is also a win for the rule of law. Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the project, followed the law.

The pipeline protesters ran roughshod over the law.

Had the latter beaten the former it would have been an unjust outcome.