Garden Island: Pipeline project should matter to Hawaii

December 3, 2016
In The News

Something happening some 3,000 miles away on the mainland usually wouldn’t attract too much attention from our state’s legislative leaders.

But the Dakota Access Pipeline project is drawing looks from the Aloha State, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard took a strong stand against it on Thursday.

She is right.

In a speech on the House floor, Gabbard called on President Barack Obama to immediately halt construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and announced plans to join thousands of veterans from across the country to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota this weekend.

“Growing up in Hawaii, I learned the value of caring for our home, caring for our planet, and the basic principle that we are all connected in a great chain of cause and effect,” she said.

“The Dakota Access Pipeline is a threat to this great balance of life. Despite strong opposition from the Standing Rock Sioux and serious concerns raised by the EPA, the Department of Interior, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and other Federal agencies, the Army Corps of Engineers approved permits to construct the Dakota Access Pipeline without adequately consulting the tribes, and without fully evaluating the potential impacts to neighboring tribal lands, sacred sites, and their water supply. Just one spill near the tribe’s reservation could release thousands of barrels of crude oil, contaminating the tribe’s drinking water.”

Gabbard isn’t just coming on board.

In September, she and 18 House Democrats wrote to the president calling on the United States Army Corps of Engineers to fulfill their responsibility of holding meaningful consultation and collaboration with the Standing Rock Sioux over the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Since that didn’t happen, she’s clearly stating her position on this issue.

Which, again, leads one to question why folks in Hawaii should care about this project in a land far, far away Don’t we have our own problems here? On Kauai, coral disease, a proposed dairy farm, a proposed landfill, water usage and polluted steams are just some of the areas in our environment that will affect the community. Our resources — land, water, air — are precious. Anyone who lives here knows this. They should be protected. They should be cared for.

“The truth is, whether it’s the threat to essential water sources in this region, the lead contaminated water in Flint, Michigan, or the threat posed to a major Hawaii aquifer by the Red Hill fuel leak, each example underscores the vital importance of protecting our water resources,” Gabbard said.

This pipeline, which has drawn continued protests of late, is consider by many, including Gabbard, a threat to the environment. Whether such projects are on an island in the ocean or cutting across land considered sacred, they must be vetted carefully. Many believe this did not happen with the Dakota Access Pipeline. That’s why many from Hawaii have traveled there to be part of the protests.

Gabbard points out Energy Transfer Partners, the company constructing the Dakota Pipeline, has a history of serious pipeline explosions, which have caused injury, death and property damage in the past decade. The future operator of the planned pipeline, Sunoco Logistics, has had over 200 environmentally damaging oil spills in the last six years alone.

These days, we should know better than to spoil the environment for — and this is what things usually come down to — money. Sometimes, we don’t learn our lessons. Our track record at protecting the environment is blemished.

Gabbard put it well: “Protecting our water is not a partisan political issue — it is an issue that is important to all people and all living beings everywhere. Water is life. We cannot survive without it. Once we allow an aquifer to be polluted, there is very little that can be done about it. This is why it is essential that we prevent water resources from being polluted in the first place.”

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