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The Forgotten Us in the DAPL Controversy and Industry

oilfield opportunityJessica Sena
Independent Communications & Public Relations Advisor
Helena, Montana


Whatever happened to us in this ridiculous DAPL controversy over a pipeline in the Dakotas? Jessica Sena begs for some respect for the working class.

The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) situation has drawn the ire of celebrities, activists, and misinformed joiners from around the country. Many have bought into reporting and a perception which demonizes the pipeline company and law enforcement. Coverage of the protest has painted a false and dangerously divisive narrative of what’s taking place near Cannon Ball.

Few understand the complexities involved with permitted activities, the consultation process, or environmental regulation. As demonstrated throughout the protest, even fewer have respect for the rule of law.


Following what’s become a public debate on the matter, I’ve seen just about every claim one could think of to demonize the pipeline company and even law enforcement. One of the more damaging accusations has been that the pipeline is “racist”. Why? Because some falsely argue the route was moved from a proposed route near Bismark to an area closer to the Standing Rock reservation, and that in doing so, tribal members were placed in greater risk of a pipeline failure or release.

As Renee Jean reported in the Williston Herald, North Dakota Public Service Commissioner, Julie Fedorchak who oversaw permitting of the DAPL route said, “The northern route was never proposed to the PSC. We never reviewed it. There were never any meetings with Bismarck. No one from there said we don’t want it.” According to Jean’s article, Fedorchak added that safety of water and cultural resources are also paramount concerns of the Public Service Commission.

The route was the result of a proposal submitted by Energy Transfer Partners for review by the PSC, and subject to public input through a rigorous comment period. The route was also amended with recommendations by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ahead of its initial approval. The Standing Rock tribe refused multiple invitations to participate in the public meeting process.

Practicality, not fear, resulted in the decision to route the pipeline through an existing infrastructure corridor, where cultural surveys had been conducted, and a natural gas pipeline already constructed. Having followed the letter of the law and been granted the necessary federal approval from the Corps of Engineers in July, who would have ever imagined the conflict we’re witnessing today?

The latest news indicates the Corps may be considering acceptable options for the company to re-route the nearly complete, $3.7 billion dollar pipeline. Protests have already resulted in costly delays in the pipeline’s completion, not to mention millions in damage and aid to law enforcement efforts to uphold public safety. Remember, the pipeline company followed the letter of the law, and had earned all necessary approvals ahead of construction. So, might this protest really be about crippling oil and gas development?

We take for granted the quality of life, the conveniences and luxuries alike, afforded to us by below ground resources. Around the world, energy scarcity perpetuates poverty. In countries without affordable, reliable energy sources, mortality rates are high and living standards are unimaginable to most.

This war on the working class, be it “green” energy policies, the keep it in the ground movement, or the protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline, has forgotten about the “us” in “industry.” Us – you, me, and everyone who benefits from and depends on the predictability that promises the flip of a switch will yield heat and light – that when the gas light comes on, a fuel station will be nearby to keep us moving in our daily lives, perhaps en route to visit loved ones, show up to work, pick up kids… – that we have the means to travel the world – and that our limitless appetite for consumer choices will be fed and delivered by timely and convenient means.

DAPL dakota_access_pipeline

Forgotten and also taken for granted in this conflict are the “us” in “industry” making it all possible. The many hard working men and women who sacrifice time and energy to provide for their families and all of ours. Who is standing up and protesting for them? Where is that fight? Have we the public, the media and government, given up on the working people in this country? Truth be told, their voices have been washed out by the noise of the #NoDAPL protest and so many others. Do those protesting know anyone who works in an oil and gas job….or is it merely a faceless industry – easy to vilify?

Vowing to end the very resources which feed our needs and wants won’t eliminate their necessity. Instead, doing so will shift the responsibility of energy production and the jobs they provide to far less responsible countries; to countries which couldn’t care less about human rights, racial equality, or environmental protections.

I can’t predict how this will all play out. But as I consider the possible outcomes of the ideological debate on (energy) development and property rights, my hope is that others will step back and investigate all sides to this story and the like. Perhaps there’s enough empathy to go around for all parties involved.

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6 thoughts on “The Forgotten Us in the DAPL Controversy and Industry

  1. Thank you for such a well written statement and thoughtful articulation of the real facts. When a country vilifies it’s own lifeblood, such as Paleo solar energy (oil, gas, coal, etc) you will have, as history teaches us (for the shrinking segment of the population that is actually literate), country suicide. All countries need to survive with food, shelter and energy. Take one or all away, you have war or submission. Every war last century had blood and oil involved. Nothing has changed so far this century. For all of the socialists, anarchists, and functionally ignorant and lawless fools that somehow feel using destruction and violence for their shallow and specious ideas and petulant attention seeking, I have one word for them…jail. A little time in the cooler might get the message across to these imbeciles it is time to grow up and start thinking for themselves.

  2. This is some interesting history about Native Americans and oil that is overlooked by the protestors and everyone else.

    “Oil in America is thought to be only a modern business, located in Texas, California and Alaska. This belief also leads many to think that oil has been a 20th century discovery, with the first wells in Texas struck in 1901, in California in 1912 and in Alaska in more modern times. Oil in America, however, dates back to even before any European walked the new continent.”

    “Long before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, the Native American Indians had discovered oil in the Northeast, but most importantly in Pennsylvania, where numerous tribes fought over the great farming lands there.”

    “Western Pennsylvania abounds in oil seeps that oozed thick black crude into the water stream. These seeps were well known to the Seneca Indians, one of the 11 Iroquois Nation tribes. After a long protracted war was fought between the Iroquois and the Mohicans, the Iroquois emerged victorious, claiming most of Pennsylvania and with it, the numerous oil seeps.”

    “The Iroquois, one of the most advanced and cultured of all tribes, began to extract oil from the ground – using it as a salve, mosquito repellent, purge and tonic. The Indian Medicine men were the first oil drillers in America, believing that the oil seeps were gifts from the heavens. As far back as 1410 they had harvested the oil, using a skimming technique that was quite primitive, yet foreshadowed a rich future.”

    “In time they would pass on stories of the “black water” that seeped through the ground, and generation after generation would be taught that the oil was a gift from the Great Spirit in the sky. As time would pass and American settlers would begin to move westward, the Iroquois nation would become one of the first tribes to be pushed off their land.”

    “The settlers were not in search of oil, but for the rich farming land that covered it. The Iroquois would fight, but as the 1700’s came upon them, they would begin to lose their grip on their land and on their gift from the Great Spirit, and in time would fade into a memory. Their discovery of oil would be passed to the white settlers who themselves would begin the process of creating a business from the “black gold”.


  3. Well I am someone who actually imagined or rather could foresee what is not surprising in the least but rather a quite predictable result —- the current situation with Dakota Pipeline.

    And anyone working in or for the oil or gas industry or in the transportation of frankly bears some responsibility for what is and has been transpiring and escalating for years now.

    It is a fact that there is a movement seeking to ban all fracking, certainly natural gas and then oil. It is a fact that the movement is not shy about their desires. It is a fact that there is resistance to multiple pipeline proposals all over the country and most are not oil but natural gas. It is a fact that the news coverage of pipeline controversies and the permitting process has been poor for years.

    So what are companies doing? Pretending that this is not occurring and has not been occurring and also being encouraged for years?

    What has Dakota pipe owners response been to multiple news reporters on this unfolding drama? How about other companies with pipelines at various stages in their permitting process? How accessible has the army corps of engineers been to the press?

    Let me know if dakota pipe has called for a meeting with the tribe at this point? Are they sitting face to face with the people opposing their project or attempting to?

    If you didn’t see that the potential for what is occurring in North Dakota right now was obvious you really have not been paying attention to the antifracking and anti pipeline movement in the country. Nor have you been paying attention to how this movement is overlapping with other “movements”.

    The labor unions now in support of Dakota pipe and natural gas development or other pipeline projects didn’t see what has been happening with the environmental faction and other groups they work with routinely? Nonsense. There is a lack of leadership, transparent and reasonable discourse all around.

      • Well as you know people have been getting arrested in various ways now for years. Whether disrupting a meeting like the pa pipeline task force or jumping in a pipeline ditch like al gores daughter did with spectra aim project just this summer. There have been news reports for years about people attaching themselves to pipeline construction equipment or themselves and heated meetings at ferc or elsewhere.

        It is painfully obvious as well that most people working in “the media” have a factual deficit about how ferc works, pipelines are permitted and have been largely just chasing the drama that unfolds not actually serving the public well with their reporting. Pipeline projects are covered like political campaigns now and have been for some time and if one thinks that political campaign coverage focuses on facts or substance primarily one is asleep.

        There are young people and environmentalists and reporters who it seems are now under the impression that natural gas just might not have clear advantages over coal and it is 2016. Don’t tell me the industry isn’t aware that this is so.

        Do not get me started on the problems with those workint in the media either. They are largely unwilling to listen to people who know more they do. That has to change.

  4. http://www.nbc29.com/story/33643825/property-owners-opposed-to-pipeline-host-revival-in-nelson-co

    That is just a single news story about pipeline opposition today. This one falls under the umbrella of “eminent domain” battle.

    Does the gentleman quoted say something somewhat extreme ? Well he says they will have to take him, his wife and kids away in cuffs before the cut the first tree for this specific pipeline.

    Am I to assume the company that wants to build this specific pipe doesn’t have Google and can’t find news like I can? Am I to assume pipeline companies aren’t aware that there is or has been litigation in multiple states over eminent domain issues? Am I to assume pipeline companies don’t see who intervenes in their dockets and whick dockets are chock full of lawyers like the constituion pipe docket with ferc was?

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