Tuesday, September 13, 2016

My president went to Laos, and all I got was this lousy temporary injunction on building the Dakota Access pipeline

This is a real rather than speculative case of the "If the Tsar only knew" trope, and another item on the general indictment of the American press, and a note on something very important that doesn't seem to be getting a lot of notice in my sector of Left Blogistan, which is that oil pipeline that private interests are attempting to construct through the sacred ancestral land of the Standing Rock Sioux band in North Dakota (though not on their existing reservation) and under the Missouri River from which they get their drinking water. And it has a happy ending, or semi-ending.

The pipeline is intended to carry light sweet crude from the Bakken oil fields of northwestern North Dakota southeast to the tank farm of Patoka, Illinois, from which it could be trucked to the nearby refineries if the price ever goes back up high enough to make it worth the trouble (it fell 3% today on nonexistent demand, as it happens), or maybe out another pipeline to Louisiana, but it started getting controversial a month or so ago as it reached the neighborhood of the Standing Rock Reservation and the stretch of the Missouri just upriver from the reservation that they were threatening to pollute.

Via InsideClimateNews.
The US Army Corps of Engineers approved the thing over the objections of the EPA, the Department of the Interior, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, so you can't say it's just a hippie thing—did you know the Corps can just overrule the EPA??? I didn't—and it has gradually aroused a huge amount of protest from the local Sioux people and First Peoples from all over North American and out to Hawaii, along with non-Native environmentalists and agitators and journalists and just about everybody but the mainstream media, and I'm sorry to say I wasn't paying a whole lot of attention myself, even when the Dakota Access company's security guards started attacking protesters with pepper spray and really fairly vicious dogs, and arrested Democracy Now's Amy Goodman for good measure.

In any event, I wasn't the only one. President Obama got asked about it by a Malaysian university student at the ASEAN meeting in Vientiane, and he clearly knew even less about it than I did: there's some fairly embarrassing video to show it.

The student knew presumably because she was following it on Facebook or Twitter. Obama didn't have a clue.

The happy ending is that he was actually able to do something about it, once he found out. On Friday, the relevant US District Court issued an opinion denying the Standing Rock Sioux tribe's motion for a preliminary injunction on the usual technical grounds, but the Departments of Justice and the Interior and the Army sent out a notice that they would not authorize continued construction anyway, pending another review in a way that emphasized
the need for a broad, nationwide dialogue on potential reforms, including: (a) changing existing regulations and procedures to better ensure meaningful tribal input and protection; and/or (b) proposing a new statutory framework to promote those goals.  The implication of the Joint Statement is that tribes should have more meaningful input into the permitting of infrastructure projects. To review these considerations, the Departments will undertake government-to-government consultation with tribes “this fall.”
And we're understanding that this is a matter of Obama's personal intervention.

So naturally I'm glad, because that's my style, though the move is only temporary, and it provides more ammunition for the deplorables to call the president a dictator, but the thing that really sticks in my craw is the role of the media, which keeps reminding us of its sacred function to call out our rulers when they fail but left it in this large case to some kid from the former British North Borneo (she was from Sabah, not peninsular Malaysia) to do the work.

It helps me feel better about Obama (perhaps I was right to think he didn't know what his secretary of education was up to back in May 2012), but angrier than ever at the no-good press that is so obsessed with the issue of whether the Clinton campaign revealed the candidate's pneumonia within an appropriate number of hours and didn't do a fcking thing about this actually important issue.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.


The New York Crank said...

Well, there was a little bit of press coverage but you're right. Editors seem to be unable to juggle two stories at the same time, much less the rich shower of horrifying news that comes at us from all directions.

Hillary, cough, e-mail. Trump, wall, yuuuge! The news editors can deal with that. But a complex yarn about a pipeline that goes through ancestral lands that aren't reservation lands, and that might — but hasn't yet — pollute one of the nation's principal waterways while an oblivious Army Corps of Engineers with surprising powers creates its own brand of vandalism...?

Well, as Barbie (the doll) once said, "Math is hard."

The one consolation I have is that I'm an old geezer, and all this festering fallout from ignorance takes time to explode. By the time America's inattention to news, science, fact, logic, reason, climate change, rising sea levels and such comes to a head, I'll be dead. But send me an e-mail and let my ghost know how it turns out. Assuming, that is, that the aftermath hasn't killed you, too.

Yours very crankily,
The New York Crank

Jimbo said...

SE Asia is where I have spent a big chunk of my career on environmental management. Obviously, i don't know the questioner but the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak have a lot of indigenous forest peoples (shared with Indonesia's various Kalimantan provinces) as well as West Malaysian immigrants/business elites. Malaysia has a horrible record of rampant deforestation in their eastern states (as well as elsewhere in SE Asia and the Pacific Islands). They are also modest oil producers though I am not aware of any pipeline issues. Suffice it to say, the rights of indigenous peoples (analogous to our Native Americans) is a highly sensitive issue in lots of countries, including SE Asia. US corporations aren't the worst offenders there unless they employ convenient local subcontractors. Forest conversion to vast oil palm plantations is the real crime as it destroys the complexity of the rainforest and impoverishes local populations.

Tom Hilton said...

The single most important attribute a President can have is the ability and willingness to learn. (Which, by the way, is one reason I wrote off Sanders early in the process.)

Nefer said...

Doesn't "light sweet crude" sound harmless, tasty even? Maybe we need better, more accurate names for petroleum products as they come from the ground.

Ten Bears said...

This isn't over. Once the Trans-national Partnerships are in place Obama's actions mean nothing.

The oil companies, Wall Street and the International Bankers and Insurers are eagerly anticipating the next administration.

Mart said...

Connecting to the Patoka, IL terminal will allow pumping tar sand up to the Flanagan, IL terminal. Flanagan has been supplied through lines in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Flanagan terminal has fed a BP refinery in Gary,IN, and the Conoco Woods River, IL refinery. (Shockingly, Conoco has the biggest reserve of Canadian tar sands, and they just spent millions retrofitting Woods River to process the gunk.) Patoka and Flanagan were just connected by a 24 inch line with the primary owner Enbridge. Recently Enbridge used existing natural gas right of way to build a 36 inch tar sand line from Flanagan to the giant terminal in Cushing, OK. A few folks fought, but since existing right of way, construction flew under the radar. Cushing supplies Gulf Coast refineries with export tanker access. The Flanagan line currently is pumping tar sand under the Missouri River, also the Illinois, Mississippi, and Arkansas Rivers - to name but a few.

If you spend some time Googling Enbridge Flanagan, Enbridge Patoka, Enbridge Pipelines, Conoco Woods Mill you can see for youself.

IMHO - this is part of the ongoing program to build volume in case Keystone XL is never built. Pretty soon, who needs it?