Lentis/Dakota Access Pipeline

The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), also known as the Bakken Pipeline, is a crude oil pipeline constructed between 2014 and 2017 by Energy Transfer Partners (ETP). It runs between the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota and an oil depot in Illinois, from which oil is distributed to users or further storage locations. The project cost was $3.78 billion for an 1,172-mile, 30 inch diameter pipeline including six intermediate tanks sites, 85 valves, and six gauges.[1],[2] As described by ETP,  the pipeline reduced oil prices, provided thousands of temporary jobs, and reduced taxes on oil in the United States. It transports 570,000 barrels of oil daily and is more efficient relative to other forms of oil transport, but received criticism for its potential of negative environmental and cultural impacts on the local land, part of which is sacred tribal land.[2]

History and Future ProspectsEdit

A compilation of the history of the pipeline was made by the Harvard Law School.[3] ETP announced the DAPL on June 24, 2014 and applied for a federal construction permit in December, 2015. The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) approved construction of the pipeline in July, 2016, which caused the Standing Rock Indian Reservation to file a lawsuit the same year, claiming that the Corps did not adequately consider the environmental impacts on tribal lands. This lawsuit was denied on the bases that the Corps complied with the National Historic Preservation Act and that the tribe could not prove injuries preventable by the Court.[4] After a pipeline easement through Lake Oahe was denied by the Obama Administration in 2016, the Corps began an environmental impact assessment of the easement for alternative routes. However, after the Trump Administration signed an executive order to usher along construction of the pipeline, the Corps forwent the assessment and approved the original easement on February 7, 2017. On February 9, 2017, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe asked the U.S. District Court to issue a restraining order to block construction of the pipeline at Lake Oahe, but judge James Boasberg denied it.[5] Protests against the pipeline sparked nationwide, but work on the pipeline continued and it is fully operational since 2017.[3] The capacity of the pipeline will be optimized by installation of four new pumping stations.[6]


Federal AgenciesEdit

United States Army Corps of EngineersEdit

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted an environmental assessment of the pipeline, in which it was concluded that the pipeline is “not injurious to the public interest.”[7] This was made on the bases that ETP has sufficient emergency technology for leakage control and had consulted with enough tribal representatives. The Corps also decided against drafting an official environmental impact statement, as it was deemed unnecessary.[7] This decision may have been in response to executive pressure to continue construction. Thus, the agenda of the USACE in regards to the pipeline included the ideas and values of environmental protection and an interest associated with following orders from a higher tier of government.

Environmental Protection AgencyEdit

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted an environmental assessment on the impacts of the DAPL to further its agenda of environmental preservation. The agency had concerns regarding the pipeline, such as seepage of chemicals into the soil and water around the pipeline, particularly in the case of a leak or spill. The Missouri River water system was of specific concern due to the widespread travel of pollutants that could impact drinking and irrigation water. This concern was exacerbated as the pipeline crosses the river twice and other bodies of water protected by the Clean Water Act 209 times. The EPA also had concerns about the impacts of the pipeline on environmental justice. It claimed that the pipeline could negatively impact the environment of cultural lands belonging to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, as well as the properties of low income people and minorities.[8],[9]

Department of the InteriorEdit

The Department of the Interior agreed with concerns of the EPA regarding environmental hazards and environmental injustice, which are relevant to the department’s agenda of environmental preservation and justice. The department suggested in its environmental assessment that the USACE release an official environmental impact statement, including additional information about rupture risks, alternative routes, and socioeconomic impacts of the pipeline. This assessment was to be conducted with engagement from the tribes and the public. The department also suggested that the Corps “engage in government-to-government consultation with the Tribes,” to evaluate impact.[10]

Advisory Council on Historic PreservationEdit

The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation criticized the USACE assessment of the environmental impacts of the pipeline. It claimed that the scope considered by the Corps was too limited in terms of the impact on cultural tribal lands. The Council also stated in its analysis that the tribes claimed that the Corps did not consult them to identify Traditional Cultural Properties.[11] These criticisms are consistent with the Council’s agenda of “promoting the preservation and enhancement of [the] nation's diverse historic resources.”[12]

Pipeline SupportersEdit

Energy IndustriesEdit

Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) is the parent company of Dakota Access, LLC, the latter of which was in charge of pipeline construction. The pipeline transports over $30 million per day of crude oil, which profits ETP.[13] Therefore, ETP has strived to portray the pipeline as environmentally safe and to discredit opponents. ETP claims that “The pipeline does not encroach or cross any land owned by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe” and that “The Dakota Access Pipeline does not encroach on water supply.”[14] The company negotiated with tribal representatives of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, hosted tribal consultations, and offered the tribe funding for surveys regarding the pipeline.[15] The company accused protesters of costing North Dakota $38 million in police enforcement, while generating 21 million pounds of waste during the Lake Oahe protests.[14] Three primary energy companies have financial stakes in the DAPL: Energy Transfer Partners (38%), MarEn Bakken (37%), and Phillips 66 (25%).[16] These companies have financially motivations to promote operation of the pipeline to ensure that they receive profits on their investments.

Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure NowEdit

The Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now (MAIN), a partnership between the business, agriculture, and labor sectors, supports the DAPL for its job opportunities, local revenue, and contributions to energy independence of the U.S.[17] MAIN’s spokesman issued a statement after the Obama administration halted construction of the Lake Oahe easement. MAIN criticized the decision as “fly[ing] in the face of common sense and the rule of law,” and claimed that “there is no reasonable logical, factual, environmental, or scientific reason for [the easement] not to be issued.”[18] Based on its agenda, MAIN continues to support the pipeline and similar energy projects.

Pipeline OpponentsEdit

The Standing Rock Sioux TribeEdit

Environmental JusticeEdit

The DAPL runs through a half-mile of the Standing Rock Reservation (SRR) and crosses under Lake Oahe, which is the tribe’s main source of water. The tribe claimed that the government consulted with them only after beginning construction and that this consultation was meaningless. This land is the sixth-largest Native American reservation in the United States.[19] The Standing Rock Sioux began protesting at the SRR in April, 2016 and were joined by various tribes countrywide.[20] The Sacred Stone Camp was created in response to the pipeline location and served as “a center for cultural preservation and spiritual resistance to the DAPL”.[20]

Opposition of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to the DAPLEdit

On July 25, 2016, The USACE approved the portion of the DAPL that passes through the SRR, which is considered USACE-controlled land.[5] On August 15, 2016, after the Standing Rock Sioux lawsuit, Dakota Access, LLC countersued the leaders of the Standing Rock Sioux, alleging that the protesters near Lake Oahe had disrupted construction that was to begin five days earlier.[5] On September 6, 2016, U.S. district judge James Boasberg agreed to delay construction based on the National Historic Preservation Act.[5] The Justice Department, Department of the Army, and Interior Department requested further analysis of the hazards of building near Lake Oahe before proceeding construction. In October 2016, ETP proceeded with construction despite these requests.[5]

The NODAPL MovementEdit

Protesters refer to themselves as “protectors” [20] and claim that they are “being waged war upon for protecting the water.”[21] The No Dakota Access Pipeline (NODAPL) movement began when the pipeline was announced in 2014. This group, created by indigenous youth, uses social media to promote awareness of the hazards of the pipeline. Many credit fourteen-year-old Tokata Iron Eyes and her friends for starting the movement.[20] Because of the widespread use of social media with this movement, the NODAPL movement is commonly referred to as the hashtag #NODAPL.[20]

Environmental Impacts of the DAPLEdit

The pipeline passes through communities, farmland, sensitive wildlife habitats, water sources, and tribal lands. Farmers are especially concerned about the disturbance of drain tiles, though ETP claims to repair any damages that may occur.[22] Environmentalists are concerned about possible pipeline spillage contaminating the Missouri River. To minimize the potential of spills and leaks, the DAPL follows operational standards. On cropland, the pipeline traverses two feet below minimum guidelines to prevent damage to the drainage tile.[23] This fact does not mitigate soil damages upon installment, which mix sediment gradients formed over generations. Installment also compacts soil, reduces porosity, changes drainage patterns and acidity, and stumps crop productivity. Trace amounts of oil contamination inhibits germination, respiration, and photosynthesis.[24]

Allusion to U.S. Settler ColonialismEdit

The DAPL fits into a recurring story of U.S. settler colonialism. The non-consensual forfeiture of ecologically and culturally significant land was aided through military force, apparent in the events at Standing Rock. Colonial maneuvers were made through technological means: mining operations, indigenous adoption of cultivation techniques, and resource misallocation such as damming. These technologies disturbed the balance between indigenous peoples and their ecosystem, which their self-efficacy is dependent upon, through altering soil hydraulics and compositions, watershed patterns, and habitation. Colonial industries have further laid legacies of destruction: global warming, greenhouse gases, droughts, freshwater warming, and endangerment of food sources. Based upon their ecological dependency, indigenous people are especially sensitive to these effects. By uprooting this relationship, the colonizers compromise the cultural unity and political self-governance of the indigenous people, and establish a new dependency. When indigenous people no longer possess their self-efficacy, they must adopt the ways of their colonizers. Provided the historical context, the events at Standing Rock allude to the social forces that have displaced indigenous people into the steads they now occupy. In its potential to taint sacred lands with crude oil, a resource that has contributed to ecological devastation, the pipeline is viewed as an insult to many indigenous people.[25]


When considering the sociotechnical impact of the DAPL, the disadvantages and benefits of the pipeline must be considered. Although the DAPL causes environmental hazards and settler-colonialism based environmental justice issues, it is the safest mode of transportation for oil, provides easier access to fuel, has lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to other modes of transport, and supplies employment opportunities.[26] These often contrasting considerations need to be analyzed to ensure the success of present and future governmental projects.


  1. Energy Transfer Partners. (2019b). Dakota Access Pipeline Facts. https://daplpipelinefacts.com/
  2. a b Verdict Media Limited. (2019). Dakota Access Pipeline Project - Hydrocarbons Technology. https://www.hydrocarbons-technology.com/projects/dakota-access-pipeline-project/
  3. a b McCoy, C., & Just, R. (2019, 2017-10-25). Dakota Access Pipeline. https://eelp.law.harvard.edu/2017/10/dakota-access-pipeline/
  4. Boasberg, James E. (2016). Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 16-1534 C.F.R. (2016).
  5. a b c d e Hersher, R. (2017). Key Moments In The Dakota Access Pipeline Fight. National Public Radio. https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/02/22/514988040/key-moments-in-the-dakota-access-pipeline-fight
  6. Energy Transfer Partners. (2019d). Updates - Dakota Access Pipeline. https://www.daplpipelinefacts.com/Updates.html
  7. a b U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. (2016). Mitigated Finding of no Significant Impact. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District https://cdm16021.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p16021coll7/id/2801
  8. Strobel, P. S. (2016a). Additional Comments on Dakota Access Pipeline Draft Environmental Assessment. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-11/documents/dakota_access_2nd_dea_cmts_3-11-16.pdf: Environmental Protection Agency
  9. Strobel, P. S. (2016b). Dakota Access Pipeline Draft Environmental Assessment. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-11/documents/dakota_access_pipeline_dea_cmts_1-8-16.pdf: Environmental Protection Agency
  10. Tompkins, H. C. (2016). Tribal Treaty and Environmental Statutory Implications of the Dakota Access. https://shadowproof.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/document_ew_05.pdf: Department of the Interior
  11. Nelson, R. J. (2016). Dakota Access Pipeline Project. https://forum.savingplaces.org/HigherLogic/System/DownloadDocumentFile.ashx?DocumentFileKey=9ca89c8c-b0ee-c56d-f375-ba241962f681: National Trust for Historic Preservation
  12. Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. (2019). About the ACHP. https://www.achp.gov/about
  13. Macrotrends, LLC. (2019). Crude Oil Prices - 70 Year Historical Chart. In. https://www.macrotrends.net/1369/crude-oil-price-history-chart:
  14. a b Energy Transfer Partners. (2019a). Common Misconceptions - Dakota Access Pipeline Facts. https://daplpipelinefacts.com/The-Facts.html
  15. U.S. District Court. (2017). Energy Transfer Equity, L.P., and Energy Transfer Partners, L.P., vs. Greenpeace International; Earth First!; and John and Jane Does 1-20.
  16. Energy Transfer Partners. (2017). Energy Transfer Announces the Bakken Pipeline is in Service Transporting Domestic Crude Oil from the Bakken/Three Forks Production Areas [Press release]. https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170601005537/en/Energy-Transfer-Announces-Bakken-Pipeline-Service-Transporting
  17. Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now. (2019). About. https://mwalliancenow.org/about/
  18. Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now. (2016, 2016-12-04). MAIN Coalition Statement on Refusal To Grant An Easement at Lake Oahe. https://mwalliancenow.org/blog/main-coalition-statement-refusal-grant-easement-lake-oahe/
  19. Martin, M. (2016). Standing Rock Sioux Continue Opposition To Dakota Access Pipeline. National Public Radio. https://www.npr.org/2016/10/30/499985883/standing-rock-sioux-continue-opposition-to-dakota-access-pipeline
  20. a b c d e Move Me: A Guide to Social Movements and Social Media. (n.d.). University of California Berkeley. Hashtag activism and its effect on environmental movements for land and water. https://moveme.berkeley.edu/project/nodapl/
  21. NODAPL Archive. (2017). #NoDAPL Call to Action. https://www.nodaplarchive.com/nodapl-call-to-action.html
  22. Petroski, W. (2014). Should farmers make way for pipeline? Press-Citizen. https://www.press-citizen.com/story/news/2014/08/22/farmers-make-way-bakken-pipeline/14426829/
  23. Energy Transfer Partners. (2019c). The Dakota Access Pipeline Is Safe, Efficient, and Environmentally Sound. https://daplpipelinefacts.com/Safety.html
  24. Breuninger, R., Hanson, K., Thompson, L. S., & Associates, O.-E. a. (1979). The effects of large-diameter underground crude-oil pipelines on soils and vegetation. https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/title/119393#page/1/mode/1up
  25. Whyte, K. (2017).The Dakota Access Pipeline, Environmental Injustice, and U.S. Colonialism. Red Ink(19).
  26. Green, K. P., & Jackson, T. (2015). Pipelines are the safest way to transport oil and gas. https://www.fraserinstitute.org/article/pipelines-are-safest-way-transport-oil-and-gas