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Why it Matters
The Dakota Access Pipeline (or DAPL) was built to transport crude oil from the Bakken field in North Dakota to Illinois. The pipeline crosses under the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and Lake Oahe, and runs within a half-mile of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, through land taken by Congress from the tribe in 1958. The DAPL also runs through important cultural and burial sites for Standing Rock and other tribal nations.
Most of the DAPL was permitted and built under state law. However, the federal government has authority over 37 miles of the 1100-mile pipeline, where the pipeline passes over or under streams, rivers, and federal dams. The Standing Rock Sioux, other tribes, and environmental groups oppose the pipeline because of the greenhouse gas emissions from oil that it carries, and out of concern that a spill might contaminate state and tribal drinking water supplies.
The pipeline is built and in operation; in October, 2017 a court rejected efforts to halt operation pending litigation. The tribes have asked for stricter oversight of pipeline operations, which the D.C. District court granted on December 4, 2017. The pipeline developer has sued environmental groups for their protest activities against the Standing Rock portion of pipeline.