A construction site laying down pipeline.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Starting on August 10, 2016, an ever-growing group of protestors began blockading the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota. Their fears about the pipeline—including its potential environmental impact and its nearness to tribal lands—were taken up around the nation, including on social media and in the news. Rising tensions led to violence on a national stage.

While protestors’ concerns are certainly worth discussing, it’s also worth noting that building the DAPL could have a number of positive effects as well:

  • The pipeline would create thousands of jobs—8,000 to 12,000, to be more precise. The construction would add an estimated $129 million annually to property tax income for North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois. That means a huge investment in local schools, roads, and emergency services in those areas.
  • With political unrest continuing to escalate in the Middle East, anything we can do to limit our dependence on oil coming from that area makes for a more secure United States. That’s not even counting the billions of dollars we could inject back into the American economy instead of sending it overseas.
  • As it stands now, oil is generally transported cross country by train—a potentially dangerous mode of transportation for a highly volatile substance. Pipelines are safer, according to the Manhattan Institute, which noted that “pipelines result in fewer spillage incidents and personal injuries than road and rail.”
  • Kelcy Warren, CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the DAPL, has stated that safety is a primary concern during the building and use of the pipeline. “This pipeline is being built to safety standards that far exceed what the government requires us to do,” she said in an interview with PBS NewsHour. The DAPL could set the tone for future pipelines when it comes to safety, leading to even more secure pipelines and other transportation methods.
  • The pipeline does not actually run through tribal lands (though it does come close). In fact, the US Army Corps of Engineers have worked with regulators in the states affected to ensure that there will be no adverse effects on tribal lands.

It’s also interesting to note that DAPL protestors, who are definitely concerned with protecting the environment in the area where the DAPL is being built, have also contributed significantly toward damaging it. They’ve left behind trash, tents, and even cars, all of which will likely end up as pollution in the nearby Missouri River if it can’t be cleaned up in time. At the moment there are about 100 people spending 8 to 10 hours a day cleaning the area.

For now, it looks like the building of the DAPL is going to move forward. Hopefully its eventual outcome will create more positive economic growth and solid environmental stewardship than the negativity experienced during the approval process.