An independent analysis of the Army Corps of Engineers final environmental assessment for the Dakota Access pipeline found that it completely overlooks its potential impacts on local drinking water.
A pipeline safety expert has called out the US Army Corp of Engineers for their approval of the controversial Dakota Access pipeline, saying that their environmental impact assessment was “seriously deficient.” Richard Kuprewicz, president of AccuFacts, Inc. argued that re-routing the pipeline away from the Missouri River was necessary as the Corps’ assessment was incomplete as it largely relied on an environmental assessment prepared by the pipeline’s developer, Dakota Access LLC. AccuFacts, Inc., a consulting firm that advises the government and private sector on pipeline safety and other issues, was asked by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, the pipeline’s staunchest opponents, to independently assess the Army Corp’s Environmental Assessment of the pipeline. The results of their investigation come as Dakota Access is set to drill under the Missouri river, the most controversial aspect of the pipeline, which has led to a surge in violence against the protestors who have been fighting the project for the past several months.
AccuFacts, Inc. is not the only group to raise doubts over the Corps’ final environmental assessment that led to the approval of the Dakota Access pipeline. Three federal agencies, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of the Interior, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, have all urged the Army Corps’ to revise its assessment, citing major risks to water supplies, inadequate emergency preparedness, potential impacts to the Standing Rock reservation and insufficient environmental justice analysis. The crossing of the Missouri river has the potential to affect the drinking water for most of North and South Dakota as well as the tribal nations that live there, according to one EPA official who urged the Corps’ to reconsider. However, the Army Corps of Engineers has made a habit of ignoring the EPA’s concerns as well as those of activists in approving its projects, normally opting instead to support lucrative industry projects. The Dakota Access pipeline, for example, is estimated to be a $3.8 billion dollar effort.
In the independent assessment made by AccuFacts, Inc., the area’s susceptibility to landslides were another major cause for concern. According to another unaffiliated expert, Mohammad Najafi, a pipeline construction safety expert at the University of Texas – Arlington, said that a single landslide would cause the pipeline to rupture and leak. He said “The pipe is not designed for that load. There will be a lot of weight on the pipe, that would cause the pipe to break, that’s obvious.” Najafi also seconded AccuFacts’ claim that rerouting the pipeline away from landslide prone areas is the best solution to a potentially disastrous problem.
Earlier this month, President Obama said that the Army Corps is now examining if there are ways to reroute this pipeline. However, Obama’s previous promises to halt construction, at least temporarily, fell hollow, leaving activists unimpressed by his latest comments. President-Elect Trump’s fossil fuel policy is set to advance the project even if Obama decides to halt construction or force the company to reroute. Though Trump has not commented on Dakota Access specifically, he has expressed strong support for fossil fuel infrastructure projects, telling fracking and oil company insiders “you will like me so much” on the campaign trail. Hopefully, this new independent analysis of the pipeline’s environmental impact will finally convince the government to step in and end the project, though based on everything that has happened so far, it seems doubtful. The only way for this pipeline to be stopped is for the people to demand the change and do more to show their support and solidarity with the pipeline’s opposition.
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