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Here's what you need to know about the Dakota Access Pipeline

Remember when Shailene Woodley was arrested at the beginning of October? Our fave Divergent darling pled not guilty to criminal trespassing and protest-related charges. Her arrest took place in North Dakota, the proposed location of a pipeline that’s proven to be a *seriously* controversial cause. The Dakota Access Pipeline is the reason for the protests Shailene joined, and it’s exactly why your friends and family members have been standing with Standing Rock on Facebook.

Wondering what makes the pipeline such a pressing issue? Read on for a breakdown of what it is, who it impacts, why people are protesting it and how the situation may unfold in the future.

The Details

Though you probably hadn’t heard about the Dakota Access Pipeline until a few months ago, the battle for building rights actually began all the way back in 2014. According to USA Today, a company called Energy Transfer Partners LP submitted an application in December of that year to “build a pipeline spanning 1,172 miles and four states from North Dakota to Iowa.” The pipeline is expected to cost $3.78 billion to put together, and, as the U.S. Army points out, Energy Transfer plans for it to “connect the Bakken and Three Forks oil production areas in North Dakota to an existing crude oil terminal near Pakota, Illinois.” Basically, the goal is to get more oil flowing from the ground to the holding location.

Proposing a project is a long process, so the pipeline plans were reviewed through 2015 and into 2016. On March 11 of this year, Iowa joined North Dakota, South Dakota and Illinois in approving the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) then asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take another look at how the pipeline could affect the environment. The Corps considered the consequences, and, on July 25, decided to allow the approval to stand.

The Disagreements

That’s when the standing movement started. Just two days later, the Standing Rock Sioux, a Native American tribe, sued the Corps and fought to put a stop to the pipeline’s construction. Over the course of the next four months, Native Americans, environmentalists, concerned citizens and celebrities have teamed up to take down the pipeline. Construction equipment caught fire in August, guard dogs and mace hit the scene in September, over 100 protestors (including Shailene) were put behind bars in October and water cannons and rubber bullets rained down in November

The Dilemma

If you’re getting the impression that the pipeline plays a *major* role in a lot of people’s lives, then your thinking is spot-on. The Corps says that the proposed pipeline would pass through Lake Oahe, a reservoir that resides in North Dakota and South Dakota. Lake Oahe “is approximately 0.5 miles upstream of the northern boundary of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation.” Members of this tribe draw their drinking water from the lake, so they—along with protesters nationwide—are concerned that the pipeline could spill oil and cause their water to become contaminated. Additionally, building the pipeline would harm the tribe’s sacred lands.

The Decision

The petitions and posts of those who passionately protest the pipeline were far from ignored. On Dec. 4, the Corps announced that it won’t allow the pipeline to interfere with Lake Oahe. Because crossing the lake is crucial to the supposed success of the pipeline, construction can’t move forward. The news is continuing to inspire celebrations and victory chants. 

But the story’s not over just yet. According to Reuters, President-Elect Donald Trump may still stand for bringing the pipeline to life during his presidency. Jason Miller, a Trump spokesman, said that Trump and his team “support the construction of” the pipeline and will decide whether or not it should start again once they take the White House. Standing Rock Sioux tribe members hope to have the chance to talk to Trump about his stance.

How do you feel about the Dakota Access Pipeline? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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by Megan Sawey | 12/7/2016
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