The chief executive of North Dakota’s largest oil producer, Whiting Petroleum, says the standoff over the $3.7 billion Dakota Access pipeline could be solved by giving economic opportunities, including supply and delivery contracts, to the Standing Rock Sioux and other Native Americans.
Thousands of protesters have joined with the Sioux to oppose the pipeline, which would transport oil within half a mile of tribal land in North Dakota. Earlier this month, federal regulators temporarily blocked construction of the pipeline under the Missouri River, mollifying opponents but irking the fossil fuel industry.
The Standing Rock Sioux say the pipeline’s construction would destroy tribal burial sites. They also worry that any future leaks would pollute their water supply.
Jim Volker, Whiting’s CEO, said those concerns would be best addressed through economic opportunities, including contracting with Native American-owned firms for water hauling and other oil field service needs across oil-producing regions.
“We as an industry like to see them provide those services,” Volker said in an interview on the sidelines of the Independent Petroleum Association of America’s OGIS conference in San Francisco.
“It does provide a better standard of living for them. It does provide a direct tie to the energy business and makes them and their tribal leaders more inclined to want to have more energy development.”
When fully connected to existing lines, the 1,100-mile pipeline would be the first to carry crude oil from the Bakken shale directly to the U.S. Gulf. The project is being built by the Dakota Access subsidiary of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners LP.
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Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, said he appreciated the suggestion from Volker, but that his opposition to the pipeline has little to do with economics.
“It’s going to be very difficult for us to allow this line to come through just because some indigenous-owned company may benefit,” Archambault said in an interview. “If this pipeline goes through, we will be the first to pay the cost.”