The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Dakota Access Pipeline in Human, Economic Terms

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted September 14, 2016

Yesterday we posted on the risk to all kinds of infrastructure projects in this country if the Obama administration’s push to depart from the rule of law and established process in the Dakota Access Pipeline case is allowed to stand. Today a look at other things that are at stake.

The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is an 1,172-mile project that would link the energy-rich Bakken and Three Forks shale plays in North Dakota with major refiners in Illinois (also crossing South Dakota and Iowa):


The project has the required legal permits from state and federal agencies and is nearly 60 percent finished. Now various anti-energy groups are trying to halt construction in North Dakota. Key DAPL numbers:

  • $3.78 billion – Overall project investment, which includes $1.4 billion in North Dakota.
  • 8,000-12,000 – Jobs supported across the project during construction phase, including 2,000 to 4,000 in North Dakota.
  • $156 million – Estimated sales and income tax revenues, including $40.5 million in North Dakota.
  • $55 million – Estimated property taxes to be generated for the involved states, including $13.1 million for North Dakota.
  • $189 million – Direct payments to landowners for easements.

These are more than dollar amounts and numbers. Each job is the economic lifeline for an individual and/or family, thousands of them. Sales tax revenues reflect economic activity along the construction corridor that benefits local businesses of all kinds. Property taxes typically support schools, hospitals, emergency services and other vital public services and facilities. If you’re a resident of one of the states traversed by the DAPL, the project is valuable to your community, to you and your neighbors – and the administration’s attempt to contravene the regular, lawful order puts that value at risk.

At the same time, DAPL is a major infrastructure project to safely transport hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil a day, for refining into the fuels that play the lead role in powering our national economy and supporting our modern standard of living. Infrastructure like the DAPL is key to distributing the benefits of surging domestic production to all Americans. Jack Gerard, API president and CEO:

“Infrastructure plays a critical role in maintaining and growing America’s energy renaissance and it’s important that our energy infrastructure is able to meet the needs of consumers and our growing economy. New and expanded energy infrastructure is necessary to get supplies of oil and natural gas to market to fulfill the energy demands of our nation.”

Virtually the entire DAPL route is on private land. While those who oppose the project have claimed an infringement on the rights of Native Americans, the pipeline doesn’t cross into tribal lands. Much of the route is immediately adjacent to the existing Northern Border natural gas pipeline, built in 1982 (blue line in the map below). Electricity transmission lines follow the same path.


Nonetheless, project opponents have been loud and sometimes menacing to construction workers. Sean McGarvey, president of North America’s Building Trades Union, said workers have been threatened and prevented from doing their jobs. To them the project represents wages, health care and contributions to retirement programs. Work interruptions could mean a lost paycheck.

Workers aren’t ideologues, McGarvey said, yet a number have needed evacuating from job sites for their own safety and are fearful to be seen in the community. Unions have a long history of practicing peaceful civil disobedience, he said, but workers are facing something quite different in North Dakota. Kelcy Warren, chairman and CEO of Energy Transfer, the pipeline’s builder:

“We respect the constitutional right of all assembled in North Dakota to voice their opinions for or against projects like ours. However, threats and attacks on our employees, their families and our contractors as well as the destruction of equipment and encroachment on private property must not be tolerated.”

Americans have long respected the rule of law and established processes under the law while also recognizing the role of peaceful dissent. Unfortunately, thanks to the administration’s intervention, there’s an undermining of law and due process and tacit encouragement of lawlessness. As Gerard said earlier this week, a precedent is being set that could “threaten all other critical infrastructure projects” around the country.

That’s a very dangerous precedent that could bear high costs for individual Americans, communities and the nation as a whole.


Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.