Trisha Shetty (Editor)

Dakota Access Pipeline

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Country  United States
From  Stanley, North Dakota
General direction  Southeastward
Type  Crude oil
Dakota Access Pipeline
Passes through  States of North Dakota (Bismarck) South Dakota (Redfield, Sioux Falls) Iowa (Sioux Center, Storm Lake, Ames, Oskaloosa, Ottumwa, Fort Madison) Illinois (Jacksonville)
To  Patoka, Illinois (oil tank farm)

The Dakota Access Pipeline or Bakken pipeline is a 1,172-mile-long (1,886 km) underground oil pipeline project in the United States. The route begins in the Bakken shale oil fields in northwest North Dakota and travels in a more or less straight line south-east, through South Dakota and Iowa, terminating at the oil tank farm near Patoka, Illinois. The pipeline is currently under construction by Dakota Access, LLC, a Houston, Texas based company and a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. The minor partners involved in the project are Phillips 66, Enbridge, and Marathon Petroleum. The project was planned for delivery by January 1, 2017. On November 26, 2016, the project was reported to be 87% completed.


The $3.78 billion project was announced to the public on June 25, 2014 and informational hearings for landowners took place between August 2014 and January 2015.

The pipeline has been controversial regarding its necessity, and potential impact on the environment. A number of Native Americans in Iowa and the Dakotas have opposed the pipeline, including the Meskwaki and several Sioux tribal nations, under the assertion that the pipeline would threaten sacred burial grounds as well as the quality of water in the area. In August 2016, ReZpect Our Water, a group organized on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, brought a petition to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in Washington, D.C. and the tribe sued for an injunction. A protest at the pipeline site in North Dakota near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation has drawn international attention.

After the USACE approved the final easement under Lake Oahe, allowing for the pipeline to be completed, the decision was sued by the Cheyenne River Sioux.


The pipeline has a permanent easement of 50 feet (15 m) and a construction right-of-way of up to 150 feet (46 m). The 30-inch (760 mm) diameter pipeline is at least 48 inches (1.2 m) underground from the top of the pipe or 2 feet (0.61 m) below any drain tiles.

The pipeline is planned to carry 470,000 barrels per day (75,000 m3/d) of crude oil "based on contractual commitments to date". The capacity may be increased up to 570,000 barrels per day (91,000 m3/d).

The company estimated the pipeline would cost $3.78 billion, of which $1.4  billion would be invested in the North Dakota portion, $820 million in the South Dakota portion, $1.04  billion in the Iowa portion, and $516 million in the Illinois portion. Of this, $189 million would be paid to landowners.

Energy Transfer Partners estimates that the pipeline would create up to 40 permanent jobs and 8,200 to 12,000 temporary jobs, of which between 12 and 15 permanent jobs and from 2,000 to 4,000 temporary jobs will be in Iowa. The $1.35 billion capital investment in Iowa was projected to generate $33 million sales tax in Iowa during construction and $30 million property tax in 2017. According to the Des Moines Register, Energy Transfer hired "Strategic Economics Group" in West Des Moines to prepare this analysis. Dave Swenson, an Iowa State University economics professor, said that "a strong fraction of work will accumulate to out-of-state employers who will bring in their skilled labor and then subcontract what they can along the way" to local concerns.


Dakota Access, LLC's planning applications argued that the pipeline improves the overall safety to the public, would help the US to attain energy independence, and is a more reliable method of transport to refineries than rail or road. Proponents have argued that the pipeline will free up railroads, which will allow farmers to ship more Midwest grain. About 70% of Bakken oil is transported by rail because of pipeline limitations. As of July 2014 Bakken shale oil was transported through nine Iowa counties exclusively via three freight trains per week. As of June 2014, 32 trains per week carrying Bakken oil traveled through Jo Daviess County in northwestern Illinois.

Evaluating which is best for cost of transport and human and environmental safety is difficult and involves a variety of factors. Rail offers greater flexibility and adaptability, and has had fewer spill volume per Billion-Ton-Miles, but costs significantly more than pipeline transportation and, similar to pipeline, still requires additional investment.


Dakota Access, LLC, a fully owned subsidiary of Bakken Holdings Company, LLC which is a joint venture of Energy Transfer Partners LP (60%) and Sunoco Logistic Partners LP (40%), owns 75% of the pipeline, while Phillips 66 owns a 25% stake. Bakken Holdings Company and Phillips 66 also co-own another part of the Bakken system, the Energy Transfer Crude Oil Pipeline which runs from Patoka to storage terminals in Nederland, Texas. Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistic Partners, both subsidiaries of Energy Transfer Equity LP, announced their merger in November 2016.

In August 2016, the joint venture of Enbridge (75%) and Marathon Petroleum (25%) named MarEn Bakken Company agreed to purchase a 49% stake in Dakota Access, LLC for $2 billion. It gives Enbridge and Marathon indirect stakes in the pipeline of 27.6% and 9.2% respectively. As of October 31, 2016, the deal was not completed.


The pipeline project costs $3.78 billion, of which $2.5 billion was financed by loans while the rest of the capital would be raised by the sale of a 49% stake in Dakota Access, LLC (36.8% indirect stake in the pipeline) to Enbridge and Marathon Petroleum. The loans were provided by a group of 17 banks. One activist group claimed the creditor group included Citibank, Wells Fargo, BNP Paribas, SunTrust, Royal Bank of Scotland, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, Mizuho Bank, TD Securities, ABN AMRO Capital, ING Bank, DNB ASA, ICBC, SMBC Nikko Securities and Société Générale.

Due to protests against the pipeline, DNB ASA, which has provided over $342 million credit to the project, announced it will use its position as a lender "to encourage a more constructive process to find solutions to the conflict that has arisen."

In February 2017, Seattle, Washington's city council unanimously voted to not renew its contract with Wells Fargo "in a move that cites the bank's role as a lender to the Dakota Access Pipeline project as well as its "creation of millions of bogus accounts." and saying the bidding process for its next banking partner will involve "social responsibility." The City Council in Davis, California, took a similar action voting unanimously to find a new bank to handle its accounts by the end of 2017.


The pipeline route runs from the northwestern North Dakota Bakken and Three Forks sites. It starts in Stanley, North Dakota, and travels in a southeastward direction to end at the oil tank farm near Patoka, Illinois. It crosses 50 counties in four states.

In North Dakota, the 346-mile (557 km) route traverses seven counties. The project consists of 143 miles (230 km) of oil gathering pipelines and 200 miles (322 km) of larger transmission pipeline. The route starts with a terminal in the Stanley area, and runs west with five more terminals in Ramberg Station, Epping, Trenton, Watford City and Johnsons Corner before becoming a transmission line going through Williston, the Watford City area, south of Bismarck, and crossing the Missouri River again north of Cannon Ball. It also includes six tank farm locations, one electric pump station.

In the early stages of route planning, Dakota Access proposed laying the pipeline northeast of Bismarck, North Dakota; a city consisting a 91.6% white alone (not Hispanic or Latino) population demographic. According to the North Dakota Public Service Commission (NDPSC), the Bismarck route was 10 miles (16 km) longer and was rejected by the USACE in an early environmental assessment before a request was made to the NDPSC for a permit. The route is adjacent and parallel to the already existing Northern Border Pipeline, a natural gas pipeline built in 1982. The Dakota Access pipeline selected a "nearly identical route" and planned to cross the Missouri River near the same point. The plans call for the pipeline to be directionally bored so that it will not come in contact with the Missouri River. It is planned to be "as deep as 90 feet (27.4 m)" below the riverbed. The pipeline does not cross the Sioux land but by a point it is only about 500 feet (150 m) from the Standing Rock reservation.

In South Dakota, the pipeline travels 274 miles (441 km) through 12 counties: Campbell, McPherson, Edmunds, Faulk and Spink. The system includes one electric pump station.

In Iowa, the pipeline extends about 347 miles (558 km) diagonally through 18 Iowa counties: Lyon, Sioux, O'Brien, Cherokee, Buena Vista Sac, Calhoun, Webster, Boone, Story (which will have a pumping station), Polk, Jasper, Mahaska Keokuk, Wapello, Jefferson, Van Buren, and Lee. The system includes one electric pump station.

In Illinois, the 177-mile (285 km) route traverses 12 counties.


Energy Transfer Partners approved and announced the pipeline project on June 25, 2014. In October 2014, Phillips 66 acquired 25% stake in the project.

In September 2014, Dakota Access held an initial informational meeting with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council. Informational meetings for South Dakota and Illinois landowners were held in October 2014, and starting on December 1, 2014, in each of the affected counties in Iowa. Meetings in Fort Madison, Sioux Center, Oskaloosa and Storm Lake brought out 200 to 350 people at each venue and in each one some attendees expressed their opposition to the pipeline. A webinar for Brown and Hancock County, Illinois took place in February 2015.

On October 29, 2014 Dakota Access submitted the project to the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB), after Iowa Governor Terry Branstad rejected pleas from a coalition of Iowa community and environmental activists who asked him to block plans. In January 2015, Dakota Access filed the application with the IUB. In February 2015, it filed applications with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources for sovereign land and floodplain permits. In April 2015, Iowa Senate Study Bill 1276 and House Study Bill 249 advanced with both Senator Robert Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, and State Representative Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, in support; it required Dakota Access "to obtain voluntary easements from 75% of property owners along the route before eminent domain could be authorized". On November 12, 2015, the Iowa Utilities Board heard public testimony during one day with more than 275 people signed up opposing the pipeline.

In January 2016, Dakota Access filed 23 condemnation suits in North Dakota "against 140 individuals, banks and a coal mine".

The IUB approved the pipeline on March 10, 2016, on a vote of 3 to 0, being the last of four states utility regulators granting its approval under the conditions which include liability insurance of at least $25 million; guarantees that the parent companies of Dakota Access will pay for damages created by a pipeline leak or spill; a revised agricultural impact mitigation plan; a timeline for construction notices; modified condemnation easement forms; and a statement accepting the terms and condition's of the board's order." One day later, the company stated it had secured voluntary easements on 82% of the 1,295 affected Iowa land parcels. A week later, Dakota Access filed motions with the IUB requesting expedited and confidential treatment to begin construction immediately, saying it met the conditions and that its liability insurance policies were trade secrets under Iowa law and "would serve no public purpose".


In March 2016, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service issued a sovereign lands construction permit. In late May 2016, the permit was temporarily revoked in three counties of Iowa, where the pipeline would cross the Big Sioux River and the Big Sioux Wildlife Management Area; these are historic and cultural sites of the Upper Sioux tribe, including graves in Lyon County. Also in May 2016, Iowa farmers filed lawsuits to prevent the state from using eminent domain to take their land.

Citing potential effects on and lack of consultation with the Native American tribes, most notably the Standing Rock Sioux, in March and April 2016 the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Interior, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation asked the USACE to conduct a formal Environmental Impact Assessment and issue an Environmental Impact Statement. However, in July and August 2016 USACE approved the water crossing permits and issued all other but one permissions necessary for the pipeline construction.

In June 2016, the IUB voted 2 to 1 (Libby Jacobs and Nick Wagner in favor and Chairwoman Geri Huser against) to allow construction on non-sovereign lands to continue. The Sierra Club said this action was illegal before the US Corps of Engineers authorized the project. In late June 2016, construction was allowed to resume in Lyon County after plans were changed to route the pipeline 85 feet (26 m) below the site using directional boring, instead of trenching and disturbing the soil on the surface. In December 2016, the approval was disputed in the Polk County District Court.

On July 27, 2016 the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sued the USACE in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. On September 9, 2016 U.S. District Judge James Boasberg denied the motion for preliminary injunction. On September 10, 2016 the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed an appeal which was denied on October 9, 2016.

In September the U.S Department of Justice received more than 33,000 petitions to review all permits and order a full review of the project's environmental effects. On September 9, 2016, a joint statement was issued by the US Departments of Justice, Army, and Interior temporarily halting the project on federal land bordering or under the Lake Oahe reservoir. The US federal government asked the company for a "voluntary pause" on construction near that area until further study was done on the region extending 20 miles (32 km) around Lake Oahe. Energy Transfer Partners rejected the request to voluntarily halt construction on all surrounding private land and resumed construction. On September 13, 2016 chairman and CEO of Energy Transfer Partners Kelcy Warren responded to the federal government's request, saying concerns about the pipeline's impact on the water supply were "unfounded". Warren said that "multiple archaeological studies conducted with state historic preservation offices found no sacred items along the route". Warren said that the company will meet with officials in Washington "to understand their position and reiterate our commitment to bring the Dakota Access Pipeline into operation."

On November 1, 2016 President Obama announced that his administration is monitoring the situation and has been in contact with the USACE to examine the possibility of rerouting the pipeline to avoid lands that Native Americans hold sacred. On November 14, 2016 the USACE announced that "the Army has determined that additional discussion and analysis are warranted in light of the history of the Great Sioux Nation's dispossessions of lands, the importance of Lake Oahe to the Tribe, our government-to-government relationship, and the statute governing easements through government property." Energy Transfer Partners responded by criticizing the Obama administration for "political interference" and said that "further delay in the consideration of this case would add millions of dollars more each month in costs which cannot be recovered." North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple criticized the decision saying the pipeline would be safe and that the decision was "long overdue". Craig Stevens, spokesman for the Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now (MAIN) Coalition, called the Corps’s announcement "yet another attempt at death by delay" and said the Obama administration "has chosen to further fan the flames of protest by more inaction." North Dakota Senator John Hoeven said in a statement that the delay "will only prolong the disruption in the region caused by protests and make life difficult for everyone who lives and works in the area." Speaking to CBS News in November, Kelcy Warren said that it would be "100 percent that the easement gets granted and the pipeline gets built" when newly elected President elect Donald Trump came into office on January 20.

On December 4, 2016 the USACE announced that it would not grant an easement for the pipeline to be drilled under Lake Oahe and is undertaking an environmental impact statement to look at possible alternative routes. The Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works), Jo-Ellen Darcy said that "the best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing". Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners issued a same-day response saying that the White House's directive "is just the latest in a series of overt and transparent political actions by an administration which has abandoned the rule of law in favor of currying favor with a narrow and extreme political constituency." They said that the companies "fully expect to complete construction of the pipeline without any additional rerouting in and around Lake Oahe. Nothing this Administration has done today changes that in any way."

On January 18, 2017, the USACE filed its formal Notice of Intent to conduct the Environmental Impact Statement process. The notice opened a thirty-day comment on the scope of the EIS, which concerns the crossing of Lake Oahe. The proposed EIS would consider "Alternative locations for the pipeline crossing the Missouri River", direct and indirect risks and impacts of an oil spill on the lake, the Standing Rock Sioux's water supply, and their "water, treaty fishing, and hunting rights"; as well as their treaty rights to the lake. The same day U.S. District Judge James Boasberg denied ETP's request to delay the EIS process.

On January 24, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to advance the construction of the pipeline under "terms and conditions to be negotiated". The order would expedite the environmental review that Trump described as "incredibly cumbersome, long, horrible permitting process."

On February 7, 2017, the USACE sent to the United States Congress a notice of an intent to grant an easement under Lake Oahe no earlier than 24 hours following notification of the delivery of the notification. On February 9, 2017, the Cheyenne River Sioux sued the easement decision, citing an 1851 treaty and interference with the religious practices of the tribe.ref name=abc090217/>

On February 22, 2017 the protest site was cleared, as that was the deadline for the camp to be cleared by protesters. Although many left voluntarily, ten people were arrested in conflict of this event. They were given the option to leave voluntarily and even with the arrests, there was no major conflict.

Federal agencies permissions

No federal agency has jurisdiction over the whole pipeline. The USACE has conducted a limited review of the route, involving an environmental assessment of river crossings and portions of the project related to specific permits, and issued a finding of no significant impact. It did not carry out an area-wide full environmental impact assessment of the entire effects of the overall project through the four states. The USACE was authorized to grant the following:

  • verification of Nationwide Permit #12 permits for 202 crossings of jurisdictional waters under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act;
  • permissions for consent to cross flowage easements acquired and administered by USACE at Lake Sakakawea and Carlyle Reservoir, under Section 14 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, codified 33 U.S.C. Section 408 (Section 408)
  • permissions to modify the Oahe Dam/Lake Oahe project by granting easements to cross federal property administered by USACE for the flood control and navigation project, under Section 408;
  • permissions to cross the McGee Creek Levee, the Illinois River navigation channel and the Coon Run Levees, under Section 408;
  • permission to horizontally directionally drill under the Mississippi River navigation channel, under Section 408.
  • Environmental concerns

    Greenpeace and a group of more than 160 scientists dedicated to conservation and preservation of threatened natural resources and endangered species have spoken out against the pipeline. The Science & Environmental Health Network also rejects the pipeline. Conservation groups worry about safety, and the impacts on air, water, wildlife and farming, because of the risk of the pipeline disruption. The Iowa Environmental Council has stated it is "concerned whether the state has enough protections—from state government oversight to ensuring the company has enough money in reserve to address any harm caused by a spill". Iowa state laws require pipeline owners to have only a $250,000 reserve fund. The Iowa chapter of the Sierra Club is "worried about the rights of landowners [...] concerned about [their] Dakota Access LLCs economic projections and whether there are really any benefits to Iowa." Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (ICCI) has called the pipeline "all risk and no reward" and the $250,000 surety bond "fiscally irresponsible". It has suggested raising it to at least $1 billion, indexed to inflation, which would match Alaska's precautions of protection.

    Environmentalists and Native Americans accuse the USACE of hastily approving each stage of the review process and ignoring federal regulations and established treaties between Native American tribes and claim there is a lack of environmental foresight and consideration. They have expressed their fears that the Missouri River might become contaminated in the event of a spill or leak, jeopardizing a source of drinking and irrigation water that affects thousands of people who depend on clean water. They claim that the environmental review that has been performed to analyze the impact of the pipeline on its surroundings was incomplete, claiming that even much smaller, less risky development projects require more rigorous impact analysis than has been completed for the Dakota Access Pipeline. The company has responded that the pipeline will go underneath Lake Oahe 90–150 feet (27–46 m) below the surface and it will have automated valves on each side of the lake. They also explained that the water outtake for the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation will be 70 miles (110 km) downstream, and that contamination of the water supply is unlikely.

    Sunoco Logistics, the future operator of the pipeline, has spilled crude oil from its onshore pipelines more often since 2010 than any other US pipeline operator, with at least 203 leaks disclosed to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, with a total of 3,406 barrels (143,100 US gal; 541.5 m3) of crude oil spilled.

    Disturbance of land

    Some farmers are concerned about the disturbance of the land, tiling, soil erosion, and soil quality. Iowa fields contain a lot of drain tiles, which can be damaged. The pipeline company said they would repair any tile damaged during construction and place the pipeline 2 feet (.6 m) below drainage tiles. Some farmers were concerned about soil disturbance, but a Dakota Access spokesman noted that the soil had already been disturbed during the installation of drainage tile in all of the contested farms the pipeline planned to cross. During construction there is also concern for the spread of invasive weeds into the surrounding land. Both states list Russian knapweed (Rhaponticum repens), Canada Thistle (Cirsium arvense), Leafy Spurge (Euphorbia esula), Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), and Saltceder (Tamarix chinensis) as invasive species of weed. However, under law the management of invasive weeds, once they are on private property, fall under the land owners responsibility. Farmers are also concerned about leaks in the pipeline caused by destabilization in certain areas prone to flooding, which could cause an environmental disaster.

    Eminent domain

    Landowners across Iowa have expressed concern about the implications of allowing the state to use eminent domain to condemn privately owned land, particularly agricultural land, on behalf of a company that has not demonstrated any substantial public benefit to the residents of Iowa. In March 2015, a Des Moines Register poll found that while 57% of Iowans supported the Dakota Access Pipeline, 74% were opposed to the use of eminent domain condemnation on behalf of a private corporation.

    For pipelines, eminent domain is most often invoked to grant a legal "right of way" easement for a certain tract of land with a parcel owned by a private landowner(s) as is necessary for the pipeline to pass through the parcels along its route. While many people believe the invocation of "eminent domain" inherently means land is being taken away completely from landowners, landowners do retain ownership of property affected by a pipeline right of way—however, those landowners lose certain rights to the portion of their property encumbered by the easement, including the right to freely use that portion of their property. Because US law requires landowners receive "just compensation" when eminent domain is invoked, landowners whose property rights are affected by the pipeline are compensated for the long-term use of their land, and they are paid for the loss of the current crop on farmland, replacement of fences, and re-seeding of grass. When a landowner voluntarily enters an easement agreement granting a right of way for the pipeline in exchange for compensation, the easement is called a voluntary easement.

    In August 2016, the company stated that it had already executed easement agreements with 99% of the landowners whose properties lie along the four-state route and, with regards to the landowners along the pipeline's route in Iowa, 99% had entered voluntary easements.

    The US Army Corps has given notice that they intend to grant the final easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline on February 7, 2017. This easement allows for construction of the pipeline to cross the Mni Sose.

    Tribal opposition

    The Meskwaki tribe opposes the pipeline for numerous reasons; tribal chairwoman Judith Bender told the Iowa Utilities Board that she is concerned that the pipeline could be used as a replacement if the Keystone XL pipeline is not built. The Standing Rock Sioux and the Cheyenne River Sioux tribes have also stated their opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline on the grounds that the pipeline and its construction threatens the tribe's "way of life, [their] water, people, and land". In September 2014, Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault II indicated the tribe's opposition to any pipeline within treaty boundaries encompassing "North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota." The decision to reroute the pipeline closer to the reservation was described by Jesse Jackson and other critics as "environmental racism".

    Saying that "the Corps effectively wrote off the tribe's concerns and ignored the pipeline’s impacts to sacred sites and culturally important landscapes," the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has sued the USACE in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, accusing the agency of violating the National Historic Preservation Act and other laws, and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to stop the pipeline. This claim was rejected by the court. U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg said in the ruling that the USACE "likely complied" with its obligation to consult the tribe and that the tribe "has not shown it will suffer injury that would be prevented by any injunction the Court could issue."

    On September 20, 2016, Dave Archambault II addressed the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, where he called "upon all parties to stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline." Citing the 1851 Treaty of Traverse des Sioux and 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie, two treaties ratified by the U.S. Senate that recognize the Sioux's national sovereignty, Archambault told the Council that "the oil companies and the government of the United States have failed to respect our sovereign rights." On September 22, 2016, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, a United Nations expert on the rights of indigenous peoples, admonished the U.S., saying, "The tribe was denied access to information and excluded from consultations at the planning stage of the project, and environmental assessments failed to disclose the presence and proximity of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation." She also responded to the rights of pipeline protesters, saying, "The U.S. authorities should fully protect and facilitate the right to freedom of peaceful assembly of indigenous peoples, which plays a key role in empowering their ability to claim other rights." According to the statement by Alvaro Pop Ac, Chair of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, "the project was proposed and planned without any consultation with the Standing Rock Sioux or others that will be affected by this major project." According to the USACE's data there had been 389 meetings with more than 55 tribes, including nine meetings with The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Kelcy Warren has stated that the company is not on any Native American property.

    Political ties

    According to his federal disclosure forms, filed in May 2016, President Donald Trump held between $15,000 and $50,000 in stock in Energy Transfer Partners – down from $500,000 to $1 million in 2015 – and between $100,000 and $250,000 in Phillips 66. This creates a conflict of interest when making presidential decisions affecting the pipeline project. The senior Democrat on the Public Resources Committee, Raul Grijalva, called this appearance of conflict of interest "disturbing". The Washington Post reported that Trump sold off his shares in Energy Transfer Partners in the summer of 2016.

    Trump is also indirectly linked to the project because Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren contributed $103,000 to the Trump campaign. Trump has said that he supports the completion of the pipeline project. According to his transition team this position "has nothing to do with his personal investments and everything to do with promoting policies that benefit all Americans."

    A former staffer of Iowa Governor Terry Branstad re-election campaign, Susan Fenton, who is now the director of government affairs with the Des Moines public relations firm LS2, is handling public relations for Energy Transfer. Texas governor Rick Perry was member of the Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners boards of directors but resigned after Trump selected Perry as his nomination for Energy Secretary In December 2016. Kelcy Warren had contributed $6 million to Perry's 2016 Presidential campaign.


    Many Sioux tribes say that the pipeline threatens the Tribe’s environmental and economic well-being, and would damage and destroy sites of great historic, religious, and cultural significance. As the pipeline is planned to pass under Lake Oahe, which serves both as a major source of water, and a sacred burial ground for the Standing Rock Sioux. Protests at pipeline construction sites in North Dakota began in the spring of 2016 and drew indigenous people, calling themselves water protectors and land defenders, from throughout North America as well as many other supporters, creating the largest gathering of Native Americans in the past hundred years.

    In April 2016, a Standing Rock Sioux elder established a camp near the Missouri River at the site of Sacred Stone Camp, located within the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, as a center for cultural preservation and spiritual resistance to the pipeline, and over the summer the camp grew to thousands of people. In July, ReZpect Our Water, a group of Native American youth, ran from Standing Rock in North Dakota to Washington, DC to raise awareness of what they perceive as a threat to their people's drinking water and that of everyone who relies on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers for drinking water and irrigation.

    While the protests have drawn international attention and have been said to be "reshaping the national conversation for any environmental project that would cross the Native American land", there was limited mainstream media coverage of the events in the United States until early September. At that time, construction workers bulldozed a section of land that tribal historic preservation officers had documented as a historic, sacred site, and when protesters entered the area security workers used attack dogs, which bit at least five of the protesters. The incident was filmed and viewed by several million people on YouTube and other social media. In late October, armed soldiers and police with riot gear and military equipment cleared an encampment that was directly in the proposed pipeline's path.

    On November 15, protesters in Chicago, Los Angeles, Manhattan, Denver, and other cities held protests against the pipeline in a coordinated protest which organizers called a "National Day of Action". As of December 2016, the protest at Sacred Stone Camp was ongoing. The camp was cleared by local law enforcement and several water protectors were arrested on February 23, 2017.

    According to state and federal authorities, there were several cases of arson that damaged pipeline construction equipment in Iowa during 2016. One deliberately set fire caused nearly $1 million in damage to construction equipment in August in Jasper County, Iowa. Two other fires involving pipeline construction equipment were set around the same time in the same county and another was set in Mahaska County. In October, another arson fire caused $2 million worth of damage to pipeline construction equipment in Jasper County, Iowa.


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