It always amazes me how different people can look at the same set of facts and walk away with completely different impression. Then in four decades of reporting I have never seen a story with as wide a gulf as what’s occurring at Standing Rock.
This is Trahant Reports.
The government of North Dakota sees Standing Rock as a minor glitch in their rush toward more profits from North Dakota oil. And so many of the characterizations are written as if none of the top government officials — you know the governor, members of Congress, the state’s power structure — have ever been to the site that they know so much about. But that’s me being generous: They have not been there and they are clear about their intentions to never go.
That’s why this is a fight about story. And who gets to tell it?
The stories North Dakota Officialdom wants the public to believe are those of lawlessness, “sound science and engineering,” and an overzealous regulatory structure.
The first story is quickly erased by anyone who takes the time to travel to the camps. And it is the same with the second story, the debate about science and engineering, because that telling only works when you ignore climate science.
That leaves the third story, the one about an “overzealous regulatory structure.” Folks: This one is the whopper. The fact is that the Dakota Access Pipeline was designed to avoid federal regulatory oversight. The whole point was to make certain that there was no serious environmental assessment.
As U.S. District Judge James Boasberg wrote (in his decision against the tribe’s injunction): “A project of this magnitude often necessitates an extensive federal appraisal and permitting process. Not so here.”
Not so here. Three potent words that should wipe out the narrative of over-regulation.
So after one federal agency did not do its job, the Obama administration said take a second look. That is the so-called overzealous regulatory framework. After all: The company spent a nearly billion dollars before it had all of the permits required under even The Easy-peasy Regulatory Scheme.
Then the State of North Dakota and the Army Corps of Engineers have a rich history of rolling over tribes in this region, ignoring treaties, water law, and science, in order to build dams along the Missouri River. A generation ago, Commissioner of Indian Affairs Philleo Nash wrote these projects “caused more damage to Indian land than any other public works project in America.”
Except. Not this time. Easy-peasy is on hold.
I am Mark Trahant reporting.
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