Many have supported Dakota Access for more than two years
© Erik Molvar

In recent weeks, a growing amount of media attention has been focused on the ongoing protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota. Reports of trespassing, arson, and attempted murder are deeply troubling. Equally worrisome is the protest’s rapid spreading from North Dakota into South Dakota, Iowa and other states – a trend that promises only to grow unless law and order are restored to the region.  Unfortunately, the voices of those who live in the states where the pipeline is being constructed are not being heard, which is why we’d like to share our perspective.

Anti-energy activists have traveled from all over the country to block construction of Dakota Access. While everyone has a right to have their voice heard, these activities have gone far beyond protesting, endangering the lives of law enforcement and the safety of local communities. As part of their protests in North Dakota and Iowa, these activists have destroyed expensive construction equipment – it has happened twice in Iowa, and even more recently, set fire to vehicles and debris on a bridge, resulting in road closures and 140 arrests. 

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President Obama’s recent statements on rerouting the project and continuing to watch the protests “play out” won’t help diffuse an already volatile and dangerous situation. In fact, this non-interventionist outlook is much more likely to encourage the protestors to continue to break laws and cause civil unrest.

All of these lawless activities and the media headlines they generate have the desired effect of distracting attention from the vital importance of this project for our states, region, and country and the progress it represents. The $3.7 billion state-of-the-art pipeline project has already created nearly 10,000 new jobs, and generated millions in annual taxes for local economies that can be used for services to support roads, emergency personnel, and schools. In Iowa and Illinois, local publications have already reported great benefits from the increased spending and development from the project.

Overall, Dakota Access has completed well over 70 percent of the construction in each of the four states through which the 1,172 –mile pipeline passes, resulting in $3 billion in investment to date. And the economic benefits are already being felt. As the Sioux City Journal noted, “[B]usinesses in Cherokee and other Northwest Iowa cities and towns are seeing a healthy revenue boost,” thanks to the influx of construction workers involved with the Dakota Access project over the summer.

While opponents may be critical of the route selected for this project, it is important to note that extensive surveys were conducted to determine the safest route with the least impact on the area; it’s also why the review and public comment process was so comprehensive. The current route, which runs mostly through private land and a very small sliver of federal waterways, was carefully selected because of its minimal impact on sensitive resources. In addition, throughout the four states, the route was collocated to other transmission lines or similar pieces of infrastructure to minimize impacts – just like what was done in North Dakota with the Lake Oahe/Missouri River crossing.

As we saw firsthand in our states, the route was further altered in order to respect areas identified as culturally significant. Together with state authorities, the Dakota Access team conducted on-the-ground surveys of the proposed route to identify cultural resources and find alternatives. This is, again, another crucial reason why participation in the public comment and review was process was so important.

The fact is that the route was thoroughly reviewed and all concerns were carefully considered. Dakota Access followed all the required regulations, laws and permitting requirements at both the state and federal level. The project passed reviews by four regulatory boards and gained approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

President Obama says there must be “a way for us to accommodate the concerns held by the opposition. There is a way, and there was a process – it spanned nearly two years and countless of hundreds, possibly thousands, of hours of consultation and review – the Dakota Access team has already done the work and thousands have already submitted their comments into the record. For the safety of workers and residents throughout the region, the Dakota Access Pipeline should be allowed to continue construction without further delay or hindrance. Continuing to “let it play out” will continue to harbor and create an environment that is unsafe for all.

Bill Gerhard is the President of the Iowa State Building and Construction Trades Council and Dawna Leitzke is the Executive Director for the South Dakota Petroleum and Propane Marketers Association.


The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.