The chief executive of North Dakota’s largest oil producer, Whiting Petroleum Corp, 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 from all over the world have joined with the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota to oppose the pipeline, which would transport oil within half a mile of tribal land. The Sioux argue 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 American Indian-owned firms for water hauling and other oilfield 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.”
Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, said he appreciated the suggestion from Volker, but 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.”
Volker said he was sensitive to the tribe’s concerns that construction of the Dakota Access pipeline would disturb ancestral burial sites and other historical areas.
“I wouldn’t want necessarily a pipeline to go through the cemetery where all my relatives are buried,” he said.
But added that he expects the situation to be resolved by November. “I’m pretty sure there will be a pretty good resolution to this.”
Volker also called a move last week by the owners of the Dakota Access pipeline to buy more than 7,000 acres of land adjacent to the line’s route a “pretty good move.” Federal oil pipeline regulators do not have authority over private land and cannot block construction on it.
“It just increases the odds that things get done,” he said.
The Dakota Access pipeline would, if finished, help North Dakota oil producers transport their product to refiners and other customers cheaper and faster.
Volker said he estimates the pipeline would cut the differential for North Dakota oil — that is, the extra cost needed to get the oil to market due to its distance — from about $8.50 per barrel to around $5.50.
When fully connected to existing lines, the 1,172-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.
Federal regulators temporarily blocked construction of the pipeline earlier this month under the Missouri River. A court ruling is expected soon on whether the pipeline’s construction can proceed, though the Standing Rock Sioux and environmental groups have vowed to oppose it.
A version of this article appeared in Reuters on Sep 28, 2016. Read the full story HERE