Photo by Julie Ostler

Protesters have gathered at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota since August to halt construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL. They cite concerns that the construction of the DAPL will desecrate their sacred ancestral lands as well as threaten the reservations’ water supply.

These protesters, who refer to themselves as “water protectors,” have been subjected to incredible violence by police forces. Police used rubber bullets, shock grenades, attack dogs and water cannons in freezing temperatures. These attacks targeted peaceful unarmed protesters.

To make matters worse, the police who are committing these atrocities aren’t just from North Dakota. The Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) was created in 1996 by President Bill Clinton as a response to the devastation left by Hurricane Andrew. Essentially, this allows a state to share resources and emergency personnel during a crisis. Standing Rock represents one of the few times that EMAC has been used to respond to social activism.

The state which issues the request for emergency assistance is liable for any fees and costs accrued by the responding personnel, such as overtime, food and living expenses. This means that the North Dakota taxpayers are directly funding the government’s oppression of constitutionally protected speech.

Those in favor of the pipeline claim that the current route has been designed to minimize the impact of a potential leak. Yet the odds of a leak occurring are dramatically higher than most people realize. The future operator of the pipeline, Sunoco Logistics, has experienced over 200 leaks from pipelines they control since 2010.

At a panel discussion on Jan. 17, Steven Emerman, an environmental management professor, compared the pipeline to strip mining. “It only makes sense if you separate who gets the money from who gets the damage. Large scale mining, meaning our current society based on the availability of cheap metals, only makes sense if somebody gets hurt,” he said. “We have a society that needs someone to get hurt. Nobody is going to allow their society to get hurt willingly.”

The biggest difference between mining and petroleum production is that it’s far easier for society to move away from oil based products. With the technological advances of alternative energy and the replacement of oil-based plastics there is no reason for these pipelines to exist, except to funnel more money into the oil industry.

The question now is what can the individual consumer do to make an impact on oil consumption? Emerman suggested a couple of options.

First, identify the biggest unnecessary waste in your life and eliminate it. For example, turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth to conserve water or stop buying bottled water and instead use a refillable container.

Second, identify which banks are funding the DAPL project and withdraw your business from them. In Utah, the most prominent one is Wells Fargo. Go to your local branch, close your accounts, inform the branch manager why you are doing so and put your money into a local credit union instead.