Standing Rock and other Native American tribes will be future beneficiaries of energy infrastructure like the Dakota Access Pipeline coming online. Pipelines offer the safest and most cost effective means to safely carry crude oil produced in the Bakken to consumers. The existence of pipeline infrastructure encourages safe and environmentally responsible energy production on private, tribal and public land alike.
Energy production on tribal lands is not new. We covered this before noting that landowners in the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation came together in 2014 to lease some 200,000 acres of their land for oil and gas exploration.
But the extent to which the tribal community – some of whom are opposing the Dakota Access project – benefit from energy production and infrastructure has not been discussed. Federal disbursements are issued annually for revenue generated by energy production on Federal and American Indian lands. In 2014, tribes received $1.1 billion from the U.S. Department of the Interior.
A 2014 Department of Interior release notes that:
The $1.1 billion disbursed to 34 American Indian Tribes and more than 34,000 individual Indian mineral owners for resources held for them in trust or restricted status represents an increase of more than $200 million over FY 2013 disbursements that totaled $932.9 million. This increase to Indian Country is attributed primarily to increasing oil production from the Ft. Berthold Reservation in North Dakota.
Pipeline infrastructure like Dakota Access is poised to transport as many as 470,000 barrels of crude oil per day from parts of the Bakken formation. That should both bolster production in the Bakken amid ongoing concerns of the impacts of low commodity prices while also lessening the strain on railroads that currently move much of the crude out of the area. As we have covered before, putting more crude oil in pipelines, like Dakota Access, will alleviate prices faced by farmers moving goods on trains. It will also create more safety, as pipelines have a proven track record of being far safer at moving products like crude oil than rail.