Dakota access pipeline engineering and construction


In the today’s world, human rights have become an essential component in all the activities around the world. Not only is the human rights important, it has become paramount to ensure that all the activities or tasks undertaken by an organization or by individuals ensure the safety and well-being of the other members of the society. Engineering is today a significantly important and learned profession. Failures or mistakes in engineering projects in most cases means an imminent danger to the lives of people around. As a result, high accuracy and freedom from errors and mistakes is critical in engineering. The engineers are expected to demonstrate and exhibit high level of honesty and integrity throughout their work. Engineering has a direct impact and a vital impact on the quality of life for all people in the society (Harsh, Bernstein, Wetmore, Cozzens, Woodson & Castillo, 2016). As a result, social justice is a critical and an important consideration in engineering. In the following discussion, we focus on the Dakota pipeline project in showcasing the importance of social justice in engineering.

Social justice is a significantly important consideration in the development projects today. While engineering may be somewhat easier to describe and define the term social justice, it might be a challenge for the engineering discipline to implement the concepts of social justice. This raises a major question on who the engineers really serve. The profession of engineering in the United States has historically served a status quo that feeds an ever increasing materialistic and militaristic culture (Kaitlin, Javernick-Will & Maul, 2016). The members of the society or the political leaders or the members of the society. The case of Dakota is a clear representation of this aspect. While the members of the Standing rock community were substantially against the Dakota pipeline project, the state government and the national government forcefully continues with the construction of the project despite the cries.

In the realization of the critical nature of engineering projects, a code of ethics have been established to guide the engineers around the globe. Ethics may be defined as a responsibility that one has towards others in the society. It is a set of standard of right and wrong within the society. It is the moral duty, conduct and judgement that is based upon the personal beliefs and virtues on what is right or wrong within the society. Ethics are present in every occupation and in every decision taken by an individual. Although engineering is one of the most important professions in the world, it offers the ability to kill thousands through poor decision making. This is why it is particularly important to ensure good ethics. Failures in engineering leads to the compromise of social justice. These failures, as can be clearly demonstrated in the recent Dakota pipeline challenge, can arise from insufficient knowledge, underestimation of influence, ignorance, carelessness and negligence, forgetfulness, over-reliance on others without sufficient control over the project and non-specific definition to the responsibilities and poor quality choices.

The recent growth in the production of crude oil in the United States has resulted in an unprecedented expansion of the United States oil pipeline system. One of the largest pipeline system under development in the United States is the Dakota Access pipeline. The Dakota pipeline project is one of the most evident results of engineering failures and non-compliance with the engineering ethics code. The 30-inch diameter 1172 miles pipeline system is expected to carry approximately 470 000 barrels of oil per day from North Dakota to the southern Illinois. Since the federal government does not have authority over the route of such pipeline systems, authority of passage stands with the individual states, each of which may impose its own requirements and procedures. The approval for the Dakota oil pipeline project, approval was obtained from the regulators in South Dakota and Illinois in the late 2015 and from North Dakota and Iowa in the early 2016.

In addition to the above stated siting approvals, such pipeline projects may require approvals from numerous organs of the national government. For instance, a trans-state pipeline such as Dakota will often require permissions from organs such as U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for compliance with the Rivers and Habour Act of 1899 and the clean water act. Finally, permits must be obtained from the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service in cases where the pipeline system is set to cross through wildlife areas. The Dakota pipeline project engineers obtained permits from all these organs before the start of the project. An issue worth noticing is the manner in which the local as well as the national governments neglected the views of the people from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

Although the Dakota pipeline had been cleared by the necessary authorities, it was viewed by the local tribesmen as both a environmental as well as a cultural threat to their homeland. Being constructed considerably close to the Missouri river, the members of the standing rock tribe feels that a leak of the pipeline could significantly pollute their main source of drinking water and could potentially harm the sacred cultural lands and the tribal burial grounds. Particularly, the protestors were protesting against a section of the pipeline which was set to pass under Lake Iowa, a water reservoir which was formed by a dam along the Missouri river.

The tribe, working along the environmental group earth justice filed a suit back in July 27 against the Army Corps arguing that the concerned authorities did not consult the local members before the approval of the section of the pipeline near the reservation of the standing rock. The Missouri river is the primary source of drinking as well as irrigation water for more than 8200 residents of the standing rock community (Mckenna, 2016). The main challenge is that the pipeline system is expected to pump approximately 17000 gallons of oils per minute underneath this source of water and thus a significant potential problem for the people who use this water. According to (Taliman, 2016), the project pose serious environmental threats and is expected to disturb the sacred burial grounds as well as the Standing rock community members.

Following the dismissal of the complaint filed by the members of the standing rock tribe, there followed numerous peaceful strikes by the members of the tribe as well as water protection supporters from other nations. However, in return to the peaceful and non-violent movements by the protestors, their efforts have been met with force by private security agencies who use pepper strays to disperse the crowd. According to the article by ICMN Staff (2016), The DAPL workers ploughed through a piece of tribal land which was considered sacred to the people thus destroying sacred sites and grounds which the community has set aside for burial purposes. In response to the water protectors who attempted to stop the huge machineries were confronted with private security agencies who deployed pepper sprays and attack dogs on the protestors. Following these incidents, the journalists who covered the story on the news and filmed the attacks against the civilians was charged in court for trespass and rioting by the North Dakota authorities. The representation has over time become more and more militarized with the number of arrests, injuries, strip searches and other forms of inhuman treatments increasing rapidly. There has been arguments that the original route of the pipeline system was changed due to concerns of safety of water from another river. The main question that arises is why were the previous water security concerns taken into consideration but the current concerns of the standing rock community are going without consideration by both the state as well as the national government (House, Layton, Livingston & Moseley, 2014).

Looking at the case between the Dakota access pipeline system and the people from the standing rock tribe, the engineers have gone against and have violated the social justice for the people of the standing rock tribe. The work of the engineers is not only to create and bring things and systems to life, but also to ensure the security of the users and the stakeholders of the system. The engineers code of ethics clearly states that the engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the general public in the performance of their professional duties. Secondly, the engineering code of ethics narrates that the engineers shall act in such a manner to uphold and enhance the honor, integrity and dignity of the engineering profession. The engineers working on the Dakota pipeline project have failed to uphold these two rules and requirements. First, the construction of a pipeline under the main water source for the members of the community poses a significant challenge to the health and well-being of the people.  Secondly, the construction of the pipeline system through the main tribal lands, or places which the members of the society considers sacred violates the welfare of these people. Finally, the forceful construction of the pipeline system, without have dialogues with the members of the society violates the need to ensure an agreement with the society or the stakeholders of the pipeline system. Finally, it is important for there to be conducted research and investigation with the objective of clearly ensuring that the pipeline system ensure the safety of the people living in the places it passes through.

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  1. Harsh, M., Bernstein, M., Wetmore, H., Cozzens, S., Woodson, T., Castillo, T. (2016) Preparing engineers for the challenges of community engagement. European Journal of Engineering Education, 1(1), 1-20.
  2. House, R., Layton, R., Livingston, J. & Moseley, S. (2014) Engineering ethos in environmental public policy deliberation. 2014 IEEE International Professional Communication Conference (IPCC), 1-7.
  3. ICMN Staff. (2016). What Dakota Access Destroyed: Standing Rock Former Historic Preservation Officer Explains What Was Lost. Retrieved 13th jan 2017, from https://indiancountrymedianetwork.com/news/native-news/what-dakota-access-destroyed-standing-rock-former-historic-preservation-officer-explains-what-was-lost-video/
  4. Kaitlin L., Javernick-Will, A. & Maul, A. (2016). Technical and Professional Skills of Engineers Involved and Not Involved in Engineering Service. Journal of Engineering Education 105(1), 70-92.
  5. Mckenna, P. (2016). Dakota Pipeline Was Approved by Army Corps Over Objections of Three Federal Agencies. Retrieved 13th Jan 2016, from https://insideclimatenews.org/news/30082016/dakota-access-pipeline-standing-rock-sioux-army-corps-engineers-approval-environment
  6. Taliman, V. (2016). Dakota Access Pipeline Standoff: Mni Wiconi, Water is Life. Retrieved 13th Jan 2016, from https://indiancountrymedianetwork.com/news/native-news/dakota-access-pipeline-standoff-mni-wiconi-water-is-life/
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