As President Donald Trump took office almost a month ago, it was reasonably expected that he would try to undo much of former President Obama’s legacy.
Environmental issues were, not surprisingly, among some of Trump’s first priorities.
On Jan. 23, President Trump issued an executive order that stopped the conduction of an environmental impact statement and “the acting secretary of the Army to expeditiously review requests for approvals to construct and operate the Dakota Access Pipeline in compliance with the law.”
Obama halted the construction of the pipeline through federal lands surrounding Lake Oahe, a reservoir that sits along the Missouri River on the border of North and South Dakota.
The intersection of the Lake Oahe and the Dakota Access Pipeline are located a half mile above the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, and the requirement of deep drilling underneath the body of water poses an elevated threat to their primary drinking source.
Not to mention, construction has been permitted on federally recognized ancient native burial grounds, violating a handful of environmental and historical preservation statutes.
The pipeline touts a potential $3.7 billion economic impact, the creation of 12,000 temporary and 40 permanent jobs, as well as the ability to shuttle enough barrels of crude oil to produce 374.3 million gallons of gas per day.
Proponents also argue that it could decrease American dependence on foreign oil as well as get rid of the currently risky crude oil transportation via freight train.
This project would span the course of four states, starting in North Dakota and stretching all the way down to southern Illinois, a total of 1,172 miles.
If the project had the potential, however small the likelihood, to poison the primary water source for countless communities, accelerate climate change, violate rule of law and ignore public outcry, would it still be worth it?
The pipeline’s construction path spans hundreds of waterways and at least 22 of those crossings must be drilled deep underneath the bodies of water.
The juncture of environmental degradation and mistreatment of native land is illustrated best in the rejection of an alternative route that would have passed through the relatively more affluent and politically influential community of Bismarck, North Dakota.
Dakota Access, the corporation building the pipeline, claimed the rerouting decision was to find land that was not residential.
They chose the land sitting a half mile upstream from the Standing Rock Reservation.
Even if the likelihood of a disaster such as the BP oil spill is low, the magnitude of the impact is immense and a direct threat to human health.
That damage is immediate and irreversible. Citizens and governments bear the cost in taxpayer-funded cleanup and in medical costs and a decreased quality of life.
The pipeline threatens nine endangered species and would arguably produce an increased rate of greenhouse gases due to an increased rate of oil extraction, only furthering climate change and all of the consequential phenomena.
The typically ignored social and individual costs incurred due to pollution from non-renewable sources outweigh the economic benefit of the pipeline and provide further justification to divest efforts away from oil.
Various estimates have us running out of global oil reserves anywhere from 70 to 200 or more years from now.
It is easy for CEOs to only be concerned with the immediate future that includes their lives, and bank accounts, but while we are sitting here debating, we could be investing time, money and collective energy into a long term plan for energy.
We must prioritize a long-term view of energy sources and focus on developing reliable sustainable and renewable energy sources.
While Native American rights or the right to clean water or the protection of our environment or investing in creation of innovative and flexible labor markets may not appeal to you, perhaps the idea of protecting the long-term trajectory for corporations may.
If corporations want to stick around for the long haul, they have to consider the nonmonetary impact they have on the societies that assist them in the production of their wealth.
Companies such as Patagonia have already shown that it is not only possible but rewarding.
Government must take on a role that ensures that the rules work equally for all citizens and secures blessings and liberties not only for ourselves, but for posterity as well.
Emily Hale is the state chair of the Alabama College Democrats.