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Activists protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline gather in front of the Athens County Courthouse on Tuesday afternoon.

Dakota Access Pipeline rerouting draws celebration and disagreement from students and residents

News that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will block the Dakota Access Pipeline from passing through lands near the Standing Rock Sioux reservations initially brought excitement for Caitlyn McDaniel, an Athens resident.

But she said her thoughts also turned to the costs from the months before the Army Corps' decision.

“The pipeline’s not stopped,” she said. “It’s still gonna happen and there was still sacred lands and burial grounds that have been destroyed, and a woman lost her arm and people have been brutalized.”

McDaniel is participating in a similar environmental discussion closer to Athens — she opposes hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” in the Wayne National Forest. She said she and other activists plan to rally outside the office of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown on Thursday to pressure him to respond to concerns about an upcoming auction of land to oil and gas companies.

The blocking of the Dakota Access Pipeline gives her a sense of the fight she and other activists will face to prevent fracking in the Wayne National Forest.

“It gives me hope, but also, like, it’s very frustrating to see … the extreme length that communities have to go to to protect themselves against the fossil fuel industry and how little our government is willing to do to protect those communities,” McDaniel said.

Ohio University College Democrats President Sam Miller said she was “absolutely thrilled” to hear the pipeline wouldn’t pass near reservation lands.

“I think that this is a really big win for environmental justice,” Miller said. “The Sioux Tribe in North Dakota has experienced a lot of hardship from our federal government over a span of time.”

Miller said she didn’t believe the government overstepped its bounds in making the decision.

“I don’t think so, only because this is such a pressing matter that would have had an effect on the lives of an entire group of people,” she said. “I think that they absolutely did what they should’ve done.”

The Army Corps’ decision didn’t please all OU students. OU College Republicans President David Parkhill said he thought building the pipeline near Sioux land was acceptable as long as it didn’t cross actual reservation land, adding that the pipeline will bring jobs.

“People have every right to protest, people have every right to stand and block, but you know, we’re in, what, almost 20 trillion dollars worth of debt right now as a nation?” he said. “People need work, people need jobs, and these are jobs that we can use.”

He also disputed the environmental impact construction of the pipeline would have.

“A pipeline, I’ve heard, is one of the safest ways to transport dangerous materials, so I think we need to continue forward,” he said.

He doesn’t believe news of the redirection of the pipeline will cause oil and gas companies to reconsider their own construction projects, he said.

“To be honest, I don’t think people that want to move forward with this really care,” he said. “It just sends more of a message that environmentalists are just gonna fight people who wanna frack, wanna drill, and there’s just gonna be a constant battle between the two groups.”

In contrast, McDaniel said the pipeline decision shows the impact activism can have.

“I think we should take away (from this) that the people have a power,” she said. “I guess I just would say that people power is stronger than we tend to think it is.”


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