Many here at Rider do not give a lot of thought to where fuel comes from. We drive cars, use plastic products and heat our homes without much concern about the real impact it has. It turns out that, in New Jersey, most of the oil we use comes from underground pipelines. Pipelines play their part in society and their part in many controversies. Some major lines have received a lot of public attention in recent years― most notably the Keystone XL and the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).
The DAPL is a 1,172 mile-long pipeline running from North Dakota to Illinois, and received national recognition due to the protests of the Standing Rock Sioux, a Native American tribe that live in the area where the pipeline cuts through.
The protests started in April 2016 and continued until the pipeline was put into the ground in February 2017. During these protests, thousands of people came from around the country to show their opposition of the pipeline.
The path crosses beneath the Missouri River, which is a source of water for millions of Americans and the sole source of clean drinking water for the nearly 10,000 residents of the Standing Rock Native American Reservation. The protesters at Standing Rock feared that, if the pipeline was placed beneath the Missouri River, it could cause an oil leak and pollute the water that so many people depended on.
According to The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, builders have insisted that the pipeline is safe and have taken every precaution to prevent leaks, however, there have been over 3,300 incidents since 2010 of oil and gas pipelines leaking or rupturing. Even the smallest leak could pollute the river to the point where it would be unsafe to drink.
Despite these risks and dangers, the DAPL is still in use today and transfers crude oil from North Dakota at a rate of over half a million barrels a day, according to Forbes.
While the members of the Standing Rock Sioux are devastated that the pipeline was installed, they are proud of the attention they drew to this issue and that they are no longer invisible to the country.
Author and environmentalist Ken Ilgunas recently visited campus to speak about his experience setting out on a nationwide hike across the planned path of the Keystone XL pipeline.
During his lecture, he said that “More pipelines mean more fossil fuel extraction, which means more climate change. It’s insane that we’re talking about more pipelines when we could be talking about lowering consumption and enthusiastically committing to renewables.”
Many feel that the government should be investing in more sustainable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, rather than oil.
Good news came last week when a federal court decision made on Nov. 8 put a halt to the Keystone XL plans pushed forward by President Trump. Citing a lack of adequate evidence that the project would not cause harm to people and wildlife, or even be economically viable, permits are once again at a standstill.
The finalized DAPL was an environmental loss, but maybe the Keystone XL can be stopped. It would be a good sign for the turning tides in our current reliance on hazardous fossil fuels.
The topic of pipeline use is relevant for students at Rider because New Jersey gets a lot of its oil from pipelines similar to the DAPL and Keystone XL.
There are many gas and oil pipelines running through New Jersey, including the Texas Eastern Transmission Corporation Natural Gas Pipeline that caused an explosion in Edison, New Jersey in 1994.
In courses like environmental politics, students have gained firsthand experience working with local pipeline battles.
“It’s weird to think about pipelines underground right by us,” said senior biology major, Cecelia Figueiredo. “Usually, you don’t think about where oil comes from, you just take it for granted.”
Students can make a difference by limiting their use of fossil fuels and “opposing all forthcoming fossil fuel projects, whether they be fracking wells or pipelines,” said Illgunas.
Learning more about these issues and the people they impact is also key in motivating our push toward renewables.
To learn more about the Dakota Access Pipeline and hear the story of the Standing Rock Sioux, come watch this month’s Green Film, “AWAKE: A Dream from Standing Rock” on Nov 14 in Sweigart 115 at 7 p.m. With Native American Indian Heritage month celebrated in November, there’s no better time to honor the stories of the Sioux and their fight to protect the resources that connect us all.
Lawrenceville Eco Rep