Next, imagine that said oil and gas pipeline company’s management gets a little antsy about the situation around December, worried that the campsite in fact sits smack dab in the middle of a flood plain, a flood plain that drains into a nearby lake which serves as the drinking water supply for several Indian tribes and surrounding communities. Imagine that management understands that, when the spring thaws begin to come around the first of March, the resulting flood waters will carry whatever garbage, human waste and abandoned cars remain at the site right down into that nearby lake, thus polluting the drinking water for those surrounding communities.
Now, imagine that several hundred of those outsiders choose to ignore the requests by management to leave, and instead stick around causing trouble and interfering with cleanup efforts until mid-February. Imagine that the oil and gas pipeline company refuses to clean up its own mess, and leaves that job to the Army Corps of Engineers.
Imagine that, as the cleanup efforts finally begin, the weather suddenly becomes unseasonably warm, causing much of the snow and ice to begin to melt, turning the campsite into an ugly, muddy quagmire. Imagine that, at that point, the crews conducting the cleanup have only managed to haul off about 25% of the gigantic mounds of garbage, and haven’t even begun removing the abandoned cars, and now they’re having a hard time getting their trucks and other equipment into the site to do the work.
Now, imagine the uproar that would be taking place in the national news media had an oil and gas pipeline company caused such a situation to exist. And imagine the legal hell that would rain down upon said oil and gas pipeline company in the form of fines, civil penalties and even criminal penalties from a multitude of local, state and federal government agencies in such a situation, especially if the site is not ultimately cleaned out before the spring floods begin in earnest.
I am of course describing the current dire situation that exists at the protest site of the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the series of events that have led up to it. Except, of course, it wasn’t an oil and gas pipeline company that created this situation – Energy Transfer Partners (NYSE:ETP), the builder of the Dakota Access line, is in fact the target of the protesters, who somewhat ironically like to call themselves “water protectors.”
There is of course no national media uproar condemning the protesters who have created the current mess, or the conflict groups that helped to organize them, raised millions as a result of the conflict, but are contributing nothing to the cleanup. Nor is there any negative media mention of the dozens of celebrities who have visited the site to get a little free publicity over the last several months, or drawn attention to themselves by supporting the cause on social media, but who also are doing nothing to help with the clean up effort.
The Washington Post managed to find space to publish a story on the situation on Monday, but its story angle was completely sympathetic to the protesters – whose efforts have now cost Morton County taxpayers almost $33 million at last count, with millions more to come – and to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose national call to action last summer was the catalyst for the influx of the outside protesters. Indeed, a January tally of the almost 600 protesters who have been arrested during this protest action demonstrated that more than 94% of them hail from out of state, and more than 180 had criminal records.
The Washington Post’s story makes no mention of any of that, no mention of the dozens of abandoned cars or of the estimated 200-plus large truckloads of garbage left behind by the protesters that remain at the site. No mention of all the arrests of out-of-staters, or of the massive cost to Morton County. Indeed, the only real mention the Post makes of trash in the camp reads as follows: ”In the slurry running through camp are the remains of a mostly abandoned mini-city: an unopened packet of Top Ramen, a broken shovel, a mud-soaked glove, a pacifier.”
National media outlets have tended to portray these protesters – many of whom are professionals – as a peaceful and spiritual bunch. When I asked Morton County spokesman Rob Keller about that, he chuckled and said, “this is not a peaceful and prayerful crowd.” When I asked him what he meant, he said, “Let me put it this way – our county law enforcement officials have never been into that campsite, because it’s a free-for-all.”
Local officials have been stunned by the hateful nature of the protesters and their supporters, who have deluged the county’s phone lines with death threats. ”We have collected more than 25,000 recordings of hate calls,” Keller says.
The local news media outlets – most notably the local Fox affiliate, KFYR, and Rob Port, a columnist for the Forum News Service who has done yeoman’s work at the SayAnythingBlog – have been much more on top of the story, and willing to publish films and photos of the camp’s real condition.
The state of North Dakota also manages a website – NDRESPONSE - that provides excellent documentation of the real status of the protest site. Their reporting has very clearly demonstrated that there is far more “in the slurry running through the camp” than the Post’s report implies, and with another week of spring-like weather to come, concerns about the potential for that slurry turning into a stream carrying pollutants into the nearby lake are very real indeed. ”We are very concerned about the potential for significant flooding and runoff into the lake later this week,” Keller said.
Given the way in which this situation has developed over time, it is fair to provide an admittedly partial list of well-heeled celebrities who have either visited the protest site since last August or expressed their support via social media for the #NoDAPL protest, and who are now making no effort whatsoever to assist in cleaning up the looming ecological disaster their “water protectors” have left behind:
Actress Shailene Woodley (who actually got herself arrested at the site for inciting a riot), The Reverend Jesse Jackson, Jane Fonda, Susan Sarandon, Mark Ruffalo, Patton Oswalt, Lawrence O’Donnell, Josh Fox, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bernie Sanders, Rosario Dawson, Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans.
There are many more, but you get the point. As of this writing, the total contribution made by these celebrities to the cleanup effort is zero. If any of this surprises you, you haven’t been paying attention.
Follow me on Twitter at @GDBlackmon
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