Fact Checking Bill McKibben’s Times Inaccurate Opinion Piece

Anti-energy activist Bill McKibben penned an op-ed in the New York Times this weekend entitled, “Why Dakota is the New Keystone” that put forth widely debunked myths and inaccuracies about the Dakota Access pipeline. Below are some of the false claims McKibben makes in his piece:

The protest is not peaceful: “The Native Americans who have spent the last months in peaceful protest against an oil pipeline along the banks of the Missouri are standing up for tribal rights.”

The protest has not been peaceful whatsoever and it is blatantly irresponsible for any Dakota Access protestors to continue to perpetuate this claim.

The two-year process was not ‘fast-track’: “There are at least two grounds for demanding a full environmental review of this pipeline, instead of the fast-track approvals it has received so far.”

Dakota Access’ approval process has been anything but fast tracked. The various regulatory and review processes began almost two years ago and included nearly 400 meetings with Native groups.

There are no culturally significant sites in the area: “Now, the company building the pipeline has pushed the local authorities to remove protesters from land where construction has already desecrated indigenous burial sites.”

At no point does the pipeline cross the Standing Rock Sioux reservation and the tribe has yet to produce any evidence that there are culturally sensitive material in Dakota Access’ construction corridor near Lake Oahe. Three independent reviews also concluded that no burial sites were destroyed.

The route was changed to reduce river crossings: “Originally, the pipeline was supposed to cross the Missouri just north of Bismarck, until people pointed out that a leak there would threaten the drinking water supply for North Dakota’s second biggest city. The solution, in keeping with American history, was obvious: make the crossing instead just above the Standing Rock reservation.” 

The current route was chosen as the preferred route because, according to the Environmental Assessment done by the US Army Corps of Engineers, the alternative North Bismarck route “was in proximity to and/or crossing multiple conservation easements, habitat management areas, National Wildlife Refuges, state trust lands, waterfowl production areas, and private tribal lands.” Additionally, the North Bismarck route has 27 more water crossings than the current route.

There are real climate benefits from the pipeline: “The second is that this is precisely the kind of project that climate science tells us can no longer be tolerated.”

McKibben fails to consider the fact that Dakota Access does not increase production at the Bakken—in fact, the pipeline will reduce net emissions and risk of spill by displacing up to 700 rail cars carrying as much as 400,000 barrels of crude per day.