Today: DAPL Comments Needed

Today is the last day for comment on the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Dakota Access Pipeline near Lake Oahe on the Missouri River right upstream from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

Like most things that President Malfeasance touches, there’s a circus surrounding this process. This EIS is supremely important. There’s lots of powerful rhetoric saying the pipeline’s a done deal. There’s lots of intimidation on-site from militarized police. But don’t get distracted. Please let’s pay attention to what’s being done, not what’s being said or the intimidation being presented to this President’s adversaries.

The fact is, the Obama Administration rejected a poor environmental analysis and asked the Army Corps of Engineers to take comments on the possibility of a full-blown EIS.

Your comments are part of this process. There is a chance these comments will preclude the start of construction on the one-and-a-half mile tunnel beneath Lake Oahe, upstream from the Sioux and millions of others who depend on the Missouri River for clean drinking water. Why? Because it’s a pending environmental disaster.

I’ve pasted my comments below. You can google “Best Comments on DAPL EIS” and lots of good ideas pop up. The email address to send your comments is:

We hope you’ll write a comment.

Jeff Smith, co-chair, 350 Montana


February 18, 2017

Subject: NOI Comments: Dakota Access Pipeline Crossing

Gib Owen
Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works
108 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310
Dear Mr. Owen,
Thank you for allowing my comments on your Notice of Intent to file an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) Crossing beneath Lake Oahe on the Missouri River.
I understand that you would like comment on three specific questions: A. possible alternative locations, B. potential risks/impacts, especially to tribal water sources and treaty rights, and C. the Tribes’ treaty rights in Lake Oahe.
Before I give my comments on those specific questions, I would suggest that you BROADEN THE SCOPE OF THE EIS. You must reject this project when it is “injurious to the public interest” and when the pipeline’s impacts clearly outweigh its benefits. Fourteen of the last 15 years have set records for global average temperatures and we are clearly seeing the effects of the degradation of our climate inceasing along with these rising temperatures. In my neck of the woods, western Montana, we’re seeing our rivers dying in the summers and our forests are burning with an intensity and on a scale we’ve never seen. I urge you to expand the scope of the EIS to include the impacts of the greenhouse gase emissions that will occur if DAPL is completed.
Specifically, this pipeline will carry 570,000 gallons of crude oil every day, which, when incinerated, will result in an increase of 101.4 million tons of CO2 every year. That’s the equivalent of building 30 new coal plants, and that is unacceptable given the climate tipping points like arctic melting, rising temperatures in our oceans, and desertification, we are fast approaching.
Moreover, ignoring the climate impacts of this project ignores the guidance provided by the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality on the importance of dealing with climate change under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Released in 2016, this guidance states that agencies like yours should evaluate “direct and indirect,” “long- and short-term,” and “broad-scale effects” of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
Sure, we can evaluate alternate routes, and the technicalities of Tribal water rights and treaty rights, but that’s not getting the most important job done, which is to ensure that our children and grandchildren inhabit a livable world.
It would be much better to keep the fossil fuels in the ground and build carbon-free renewable energy systems instead of building DAPL’s 30-inch pipe 92 feet beneath Lake Oahe. For my children’s sake, for your children’s sake, and for the sake of all the Earth’s children, let’s get our heads on straight here and broaden the scope to include climate change as recommended by NEPA best practices. This would mean, as I understand it, that your EIS would recommend a “NO ACTION” alternative to crossing Lake Oahe.
Now, as far as Question A, possible alternate routes, the Environmental Assessment (EA) previously done for this project was a biased document more intent on following the existing corridor than examining a route north and east of the Missouri River, which is actually shorter, safer, and crosses no major or minor rivers. This route demands a full examination because it offers the least risk. Could it have been that the EA writers may have been compromised by the financial interests, which created deadlines for the oil to flow? Surely the EA’s flaws suggest this is so.
A discussion of alternate routes for the Lake Oahe crossing must also include the fact that no similar crossing for a pipeline like DAPL exists anywhere in the world! The Tribes living along the Missouri River are the first to witness an experiment like this: a one-and-a-half-mile pipeline, 30 inches diameter, buried 92 feet beneath the surface of a freshwater lake in a large-diameter HDD tunnel. The current EA found no significant impact of the pipeline crossing Lake Oahe. How can that be? It did not discuss the fact that a clean-up outside the pipe in the tunnel is a technical impossibility. Such a leak will initially contaminate soils 92 feet below the lake and then seep into the aquifers and the lake itself. These are major aquifers (Hill Creek and Fox Hills) and a major lake upon which millions of Americans depend for drinking water. Moreover, the layer of shale just below the pipeline at 92 feet is brittle and is known to cause landslides.
In brief, the existing EA lacks engineering integrity because it is not supported by any precedent (no similar pipeline crossings have been attempted). The existing EA is not supported by current engineering best practices. The existing EA should be vacated immediately. Which means, in effect, your EIS is absolutely called for by the false and inadequate EA that exists. And, because of that inadequacy, studying alternate routes such as the one to the north and east (which does not cross a major river) are absolutely imperative, given the risks involved.
Question B has to do with potential risks to the tribes that depend on Lake Oahe and the Missouri River. The risks involved have not yet been rigorously studied. We can assume that there are three major technical risks: the poisonous crude oil, the large diameter pipe, and the HDD tunnel 92 feet below the surface of the lake. These risks demand a full EIS.
It is also apparently true that the tribes have not seen several documents that have apparenty been kept secret. Tribal leaders and their experts have not yet reviewed and commented on the lake spill model discussion report, the lake HDD risk analysis report, and the DAPL route comparison. Without their ability to see these documents there is no basis for finding that this route presents the least risk of environmental impacts.
Question C has to do with treaty rights. I would suggest that this is important to the tribes or else there would not be such continuing non-violent civil disobedience at the pipeline site. These rights should not be ignored. Our government must learn from the mistakes of history and plot another course, one that respects these rights from start to finish.
Jeffrey J. Smith