On November 16, TransCanada, the owners of the Keystone Pipeline, reported that a portion of the line had ruptured, spilling over 210,000 gallons of oil near the small town of Amherst in South Dakota. That currently ties it for the dubious record of the biggest oil spill of 2017 in the United States. The spill is also dangerously close to the Lake Traverse Sioux Reservation. The chairman for the Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux Tribe, Dave Flute, expressed concern that the oil could contaminate local groundwater.
If you feel like you’ve heard this one before, it’s because you have. Time and time again the fossil fuel industry has been admonished by concerned citizens worried about the health and safety of their communities. These companies always bring out the same tired routine, that they “hear their concerns” and are “committed to the utmost safety standards.” But that’s never true; After all, their board would rather line their pockets than give less than a percent of their bonuses to safety budgeting.
When that doesn’t work, they tell the people that their project will bring everyone in their communities jobs! Ah yes, the almighty job creators are here to liberate middle America from the tyranny of poverty. For Keystone, TransCanada called it an economic buoy and jobs creator, despite only creating 35 full time jobs nationwide, with roughly 3,000 temporary construction positions. A far cry from the 28,000 jobs they promised.
And when that doesn’t work, these companies decide that greasing the wheels is the easiest way out. Just give a local regulator a couple grand to look the other way! Or even better, gain some friends in Congress who decide that regulation is “hurting American business.” It must be great for companies to have pals like PA State Senator Scott Martin, who drafted a bill that would potentially fine protesters millions. The senator’s home county of Lancaster, by the way, is currently fighting the construction of the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline.
Case in point, the state of Nebraska had been considering potential routes for the Keystone pipeline. Opponents of the pipeline had hoped that the recent incident would be accounted for in the decision, but due to a 2011 state law, the Commission is unable to consider pipeline safety or the risk of spills. On November 20th, the Public Service Commission of Nebraska voted 3-2 to approve of the route.
Environmentalists, Native Americans, corporate watchdogs, and countless others have argued time and time again that these How many more times must these arguments be made, and proven right, before something changes? The sad truth of it all is that these companies know the risks behind their projects, you don’t plan out a 2600 mile long pipeline and not expect problems to occur. But they know that the price tag of an environmental disaster can be mitigated; The fines are never crippling, and civil lawsuits can be settled. The United States willfully perpetuates a system wherein companies put profit over people, and the planet, 100 percent of the time and get away with it.
At times, it seems the only option for resistance seems to protest. At Standing Rock, activists fought tooth and nail against corporate mercenaries and police to protect Sioux land. They likely would have won, too, were it not for the election of Donald Trump, who decided to give the Dakota Pipeline a rubber stamp. But these fossil fuel lackeys don’t want us to remember that Standing Rock almost worked. That the will of the people stood against corporate greed and almost triumphed.
It’s not just protesting either. We, of course, need to elect real representatives to our government, not ones that buddy up with billionaires, or decide that regulation is the enemy. It’s cliche, but we need to make them realize who Congress really works for: not for the elite few, but for every one of us. And every protest will remind them that we’re not going away.