Thomas Skadeland: Opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline for the Right Reasons


during Wednesday's unveiling of the new UND Fighting Hawks logo at the High Performance Center. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

I oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline because the acquirement of land needed for the proposed pipeline route does not respect theproperty rights of all landowners involved and the corporations involved have received federal, state, and local subsidies at the expense of the taxpayer. If every property owner in the proposed route voluntarily sold or leased (or some other contractual arrangement) their land to the D.A.P. and all financing was done voluntarily by the businesses in charge of the project it would be a valid arrangement that I could support; but that is not the case.

Some property owners (in Iowa) in the path of the proposed pipeline do not wish to sell or lease their land; this is their right and that should be the end of it. Unfortunately they will become victims of the atrocious power of eminent domain. The only course of redress for these individuals who oppose the confiscation of their property is to pursue “legal options”. Property owners have to commit personal time and money (probably significant amounts of both) in attempt defend their right to own and control their private property; this is an injustice. For a rule to be accepted as a just law it is necessary for that rule to be equally applied to all. In the case of eminent domain land is acquired forcefully; an act that would be punished if carried out by a private party, therefore, eminent domain does not meet the standards of a just law.

[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]There are others who are opposed to this pipeline but for the wrong reasons.[/mks_pullquote]

The companies involved; Energy Transfer, Sunoco Logistics, and Phillips 66, have announced a successful completion of project financing for the Dakota Access Pipeline yet they do not entirely finance their operations; their businesses are additionally financed by federal, state, and local subsidies. Since 1993 (but mostly since after 2011) Energy Transfer (parent company of Sunoco Logistics), has received $1,838,457,097.00 in government subsidies. Phillips 66 has received $228,491,040.00 in total government subsidies since 1990 but mostly since 2011. This is a total of $2,066,948,137.00 in taxpayer funded subsidies. North Dakota has also, since 1990 but mostly since after 2005, awarded State subsidies totaling $110,524,376.00. This is an illegitimate source of production financing that I strongly oppose.

Economic and ethical standards should be based on how they immediately affect the lives of the individual; this is how a society achieves economic prosperity and peaceful cooperation. The production of goods and services is guided by the subjective valuations and preferences of the consuming public. All appropriate allocation of these goods and services requires the ability of property owners to own and control property, engage in voluntary exchange (or abstain from exchange), and establish contracts with others. Any artificial interference in this peaceful process only distorts natural market processes and violates individual property rights. The process of how the Dakota Access Pipeline acquires sections of its proposed route and how it will be financed violates these basic rights.

There are others who are opposed to this pipeline but for the wrong reasons. There have been protest rallies attended by concerned North Dakota citizens, members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, and even a pair of Hollywood actress’s. Members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe have voiced concerns about possible future oil leaks from the pipeline that could damage their tribal lands and water source since the pipeline is set to cross the Missouri River upstream from the Standing Rock Reservation. This is a valid concern and it is this type of situation that shows the importance of property rights and contract enforcement (topics I have written about here and here) These protesters should be focusing on property rights instead of what “could happen”; especially since the Dakota Access Pipeline is responsible for any damaged property in the event of an oil spill or any other accident.

I would also like to express my concern and disappointment with regards to how some of the protesters are choosing to conduct themselves. Most protest attendees have been peaceful but some have not. During some protest events there have been individuals on horseback charging at police guarding work zones of construction workers. The horse charges are a clear provocation towards the officers who luckily showed restraint. Other protesters have taken part in blocking traffic on roadways near protest areas; a tactic that is aimed at people not involved in the issue, causes traffic congestion which is dangerous to drivers and protesters, and most likely actually alienates more people. It’s frustrating to see the misguided actions of a few protesters that do more harm than good. I’m sympathetic to the cause but not these types of tactics.

A solid and justifiable opposition must be based on principle. I am opposed to the pipeline because I am a principled advocate of individual property rights. I believe all individuals have the right to own and control property in any way they see fit as long as the property of others is not harmed. In the case of the Dakota Access Pipeline land owners involved are being forced to forfeit their right to own and control property and partial financing is being forced on the taxpayers; these are the issues. The best way to avoid conflict and promote peaceful exchange and cooperation is by an established economic system that respects individual property rights, voluntary exchange, and contract enforcement; this is the free market system. Where there is no property there is no justice.