Trump’s pipeline action ignites UI, IC critics


Locals participate in a peaceful protest regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline at the Pentacrest on Monday, October 10, 2016. The protest happened from 12:30-1:30 that contained an open mic allowing people to speak their opinions. (The Daily Iowan/ Alex Kroeze)

By Katelyn Weisbrod

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President Donald Trump signed executive actions on Tuesday to advance the approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline.

The approval of both was halted during the Obama administration for reasons including the potential for oil spills damaging the environment and sacred Native American lands.

The Dakota Pipeline, which would run from the Bakken Oil fields in North Dakota through South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois, was protested several times in 2016 on the University of Iowa campus and around the nation.

The hashtag #NoDAPL trended nationwide toward the end of 2016 to fight against the pipeline, and in December, the Army Corps of Engineers announced it would seek an alternate route in North Dakota, where the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and protesters gathered to fight the construction of the pipeline through the Native American land.

The UI Student Government passed a resolution at the end of last semester that stated it stood with the movement against the Dakota Pipeline.

UI student Jessica Owens, who proposed the UISG resolution last year, actively participated in many of the protests on campus as a member of the UI Native American Student Association.

“This whole action sets a tone so early in [Trump’s] administration, like we expected bad things to happen, but this kind of marginalizes voices being heard in America with environmental issues,” Owens said.

UI Associate Professor of history and geography Tyler Priest said the more concerning of the two pipelines is the Keystone XL.

“With regard to the Keystone XL, the oil is heavier, sludgier, and much more difficult to clean up than the oil that is from the Bakken,” Priest said. “The impact of a spill from Keystone would be greater and more costly than a spill of the [Dakota] pipeline.”

However, Priest said, the likelihood of either pipelines suffering a spill is extremely low. Pipelines are also the safest, cheapest, and most efficient way to transport oil, he said.

“The probability would be very low for a state-of-the-art pipeline [to burst] compared to pipelines that have been in the ground for 50 or 60 years,” Priest said. “But I don’t want to be dismissive of the risk.”

UI Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Jerry Schnoor said the United States should not invest in pipelines because oil should stay in the ground.

“The problem with the pipelines is that they enhance our infrastructure for a resource that causes tremendous damage to the atmosphere and our climate system,” he wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan. “We should invest in solar, wind, and energy efficiency instead. Many more jobs will be created there — that’s the future.”

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