Protest camp near Standing Rock just a couple weeks before artifacts were found.

Fines For DAPL Violations Over Artifacts And Trees Would Be An Insignificant Fraction Of The Cost [Opinion]

Remember when DAPL water protectors were willing to risk bodily harm to protect the land they claimed had important cultural artifacts scattered throughout it? Remember when the DAPL protest camps and their supporters shouted to the media, government agencies and anyone else who would listen that Energy Transfer Partners were threatening an area of rich cultural significance in addition to threatening their drinking water?

Of course, as it turned out, there were artifacts along the pipeline’s controversial route through unceded Sioux territory. When DAPL contractors found the artifacts, they allegedly improperly reported the discovery.

DAPL contractors discovered artifacts, failed to report.
Water protectors opposed to the pipeline at Oceti Sakowin near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation braced for winter. [Image by Scott Olson/Getty Images]

KFYR TV reported that DAPL contractors re-routed slightly around the discovery of artifacts, but didn’t notify the proper authorities of the find. The discovery was made in October, 10 days before a Public Service Commission inspection, according to Julie Fedorchak of Public Service Commission.

“I was very upset when I found out about it and asked for immediate information,” Fedorchak said, according to Dickenson Press.

The site contained rock cairns, according to a report by KFYR TV.

“Energy Transfer Partners discovered sites deemed significant to Native American culture on October 17. The site found was described as a stone cairns feature, which could represent a number of things from a commemorative event, a trail marking or – in a small amount of cases – human remains.”

So, let’s summarize this situation.

The pipeline cut across unceded Sioux land that had been delimited by the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie and another treaty from 1868 (in which the Sioux agreed to keep the area for hunting, but to also keep it undeveloped). Put simply, according to our very own National Archives, the federal government confiscated the land illegally in 1877 after gold was discovered in the area. In all actuality, the last legal document of ownership pertaining to the area is, according to our very own federal archives, the Sioux Treaty of 1868. Never-the-less, the pipeline was built, even though members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe attempted to prevent the pipeline’s route from cutting clear through land that, according to our own laws, were still unceded by the Sioux. Yet, they built the pipeline beside camps of protesters anyway. Then, when they discovered culturally important artifacts, they seemingly didn’t report it properly.

Now, we’re supposed to believe that Energy Transfer Partners didn’t intentionally do anything wrong. Whatever happened was an accident. Heck, you know what, it was probably a completely unforeseeable, honest mistake. Who could have foretold that there would have been artifacts right where the Sioux claimed there would be artifacts?

The North Dakota Public Service Commission is also investigating whether or not the company removed too many trees and shrubs while it constructed the pipeline through the state. Energy Transfer Partners says that it fully intends to plant two new trees for every one tree they removed. No biggie, right? Remove a mature tree, plant two new trees. It’s practically like the sparse forest in the area is doubling, right?

The pipeline is now operational, and a report in the Chicago Tribune indicated that the pipeline has already leaked multiple times.

“Now that the Dakota Access pipeline is fully operational, we find it more urgent than ever that the courts and administration address the risks posed to the drinking water of millions of American citizens,” Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault wrote in a statement. “This pipeline became operational today, yet it has already leaked at least three times.”

At any rate, Energy Transfer Partners now face fines for cutting down too many trees and for improperly reporting the discovery of culturally significant artifacts. The hearings have been scheduled for later this summer. On August 16, Energy Transfer Partners will try to defend itself against allegations that it improperly reported the discovery of artifacts. The next day, the company will try to defend itself against allegations that it removed too many trees. These hearings will be open to the public, according to Rapid City Journal.

So, they have their pipeline, and they did whatever they had to do to get it flowing. In August, we will find out if they will have to pay a fine that will be nothing more than the cost of doing business. See, if the company is unable to successfully defend itself against the allegations, it could end up being fined up to $400,000. The pipeline cost $3.8 billion, according to Forbes. Make that into a fraction. That would be proportionate to my family losing one dime each week. I wouldn’t even feel it, and neither will they.

Energy Transfer Partners were on the wrong side of history, and so were the people who let it happen.

[Featured Image by James MacPherson/AP Images]

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