Calls from environmentalists to shutdown pipelines like Dakota Access fail to shed light on the harsh unintended consequences of their opposition. Law360 recently reported eleven states have argued in an amicus brief how a DAPL shutdown could harm their food supply, raise food prices, and negatively impact the agriculture sector:
“In an amicus brief filed Wednesday, the states said that vacating an easement for the pipeline — which a lower court has ruled necessary for a thorough environmental review — would only cause hardship for American farmers. That’s because crude oil displaced from the pipeline would compete for rail space against the much less valuable cereal grain produced in Midwestern states, leading to rail congestion while the environmental impacts of the already-built pipeline are reevaluated.
The outcome of the review won’t cause the pipeline to be shut down forever, the states said. But it would cause immediate hardship and strain on the American food supply chain at a particularly vulnerable time, they said. “Particularly amidst a global pandemic, the risk of creating conditions for food insecurity in various pockets of the country — and of bankrupting farmers — makes vacatur inappropriate.”
With U.S. food supplies taking a hit throughout 2020, we cannot afford to hinder our nation’s food supply in any manner. During the onset of the pandemic, Forbes reported major grocery stores like Walmart and Harris Teeter struggled to restock shelves due to a lack of truck drivers and logistical concerns. With continued uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, shutting down DAPL could cause transit issues for food and cause unnecessary harm to the already-dwindling economies in many states.
Food security is not the only reason to be weary of a DAPL shutdown. The economic ramifications are significant. Even more workers in the oil and gas sector would be laid off and forced to find new jobs amidst a record national unemployment rate. State economies would suffer from a major cut in tax revenue supported by the pipeline – leading to funding cuts for state programs and other public works projects:
“In addition to the 11 states, North Dakota likewise filed an amicus brief on Wednesday, arguing that shutting down the pipeline would disrupt tax revenues and funding for specific special funds set up by the state legislature. Those include hundreds of millions of dollars that have been allocated for school funds, tribal government funds, tax relief funds and budget stabilization, the state said.”
The ball now lies in the D.C. Circuit’s court. A DAPL shutdown could lead to drastic consequences for a number of states and their consumers. We must carefully consider the big picture and potential unintended consequences, prioritizing facts rather than emotion and rhetoric, when it comes to shutting down much-needed pipelines.