Thousands of people from around the world, including hundreds of indigenous and tribal nations, are currently camping near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota to protest the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). What started as a fight to protect sacred Sioux lands from destruction has become a broader struggle for Native American rights, freshwater conservation, and an end to fossil fuel development and corporate greed. On the frontlines, water protectors are facing increasing violence and police repression, but stand strong in peaceful, nonviolent prayer. This kind of unshakable determination has enabled the movement to effectively halt construction of a major pipeline, and has inspired people from around the world to lend their support.
The North Fork Valley and its surroundings — managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Uncompahgre Field Office — is an exceptionally beautiful place. Located on the western slope of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, the valley is home to the largest concentration of organic farms in Colorado, and is renowned for its outdoor reaction. Many in the region have worked hard to transition the local economy from coal mining to more sustainable industries such as agriculture, tourism, recreation, and the arts. Now this cleaner economy is under threat.
One year ago, on November 5, 2015, a mining waste dam failed at the Samarco iron mine in rural Brazil, unleashing an enormous torrent of chemical-laden sludge into the Rio Doce. At least 19 people died and some 700 people were left homeless. Aquatic ecosystems were wiped out by the plume of pollution that reached the Atlantic Ocean. What remains is a polluted river that locals will have to contend with for decades to come.
Since the onset of the fracking boom nearly a decade ago, the oil and gas industry has fought to prevent effective state oversight of its Pennsylvania operations. The Marcellus Shale Coalition’s (MSC) current lawsuit to block updated regulations (Chapter 78A) for shale wells is a clear signal that industry has no plans to change its usual, harmful tune.
With state palns in development to cut oil and gas methane pollution, as well as anti-environmental bills in the legislature, Pennsylvanians can only hope that Governor Wolf and legislative leaders have finally learned their lesson: always put the public interest first, and don’t believe industry’s false promises.