Columnist refutes Ron Ness’ statements on DAPL


In September, President of the North Dakota Petroleum Council Ron Ness, released an article stating that the Dakota Access Pipeline was not being fairly covered by the media. Over the past week, this article has started to circulate social media again, receiving a variety of responses. 

Ness proposed that press coverage is solely focused on a “narrow sliver of the Great Plains populace,” which in my opinion is laughable.

Press coverage is focusing on the affected populace. 

American Indians living in the Standing Rock Indian Reservation will have their main source of drinking water within 90 feet of a pipeline transporting around 470,000 barrels of crude oil a day. 

They have the right to protest this not only due to environmental and health concerns, but also because of the 1851 Dakota Land Cession Treaty. This treaty is the same one that established the reservations these tribes were confined to. 

Even back then, no governmental institutions, structures or other permanent installations were permitted without the express consent of the tribal council. 

The government would not go back on an upheld treaty with another country, so why should they violate one made with its own people?

Ness also talks about the people of Bismarck and other DAPL-supportive communities in his article. He discusses how jobs would be lost and how the state wouldn’t receive $129 million in tax revenue. 

These are legitimate concerns for the state’s economy. 

However, what he neglected to take into context is when the same people supporting that pipeline — which was originally going to run much closer to Bismarck and surrounding communities, asked for it to be rerouted onto a reservation. They thought that it was a valid health concern. 

Then, without hesitation, many of those same people suddenly flipped on the issue when the protesters started appearing at construction sites.

If the federal government will listen to the concerns of a primarily white community supportive of the DAPL, why shouldn’t they consider the criticism and protests of an American Indian community that doesn’t? 

If Ness is implying that 8,000 to 12,000 jobs take precedence over the health and well-being of the thousands of individuals who currently live there, then he is explicitly placing financial gain over the quality of human lives.

Toward the end of his article, Ness reassures readers of the lack of environmental impact, stating the U.S. Engineering Corps has cleared the DAPL as safe. 

However, they have cleared disastrous projects in the past, and there are no real guarantees this will not be another. 

Even a quick glance at their recent projects evokes a sense of uncertainty. The New Madrid Floodway Project, for example, did not fix any of the local flooding problems, and actually resulted in the destruction of fish habitats.

Unsafe, ineffective structures are built and funded by federal and state governments all the time, regardless of their possible consequences.

Furthermore in Ness’ article, he said there was “a time and place” to discuss the merits of the pipeline project, and he was correct. 

That time was spent in closed-door sessions, with minimal attendance and no negating parties. 

This is an issue that requires legal revisitation, if not warranted by the newfound controversy surrounding its construction on American Indian land, then at least for its newest developments of the unwarranted treatment of peaceful protesters.

Benjamin Hummel is an English and speech & communications major at SDSU and can be reached at [email protected]