By Caleb Slinkard
The Dakota Access Pipeline protests have become national news, as a request for an emergency injunction by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has halted construction of sections of the 1,200 mile pipeline.
In Norman, a coalition of individuals including local tribal members and water rights activists are fighting against the Red River Pipeline, a $500 million pipeline that will reportedly transport crude oil from Cushing to Longview, Texas. A portion of the 350-mile, 16-inch pipeline will run through east Cleveland County.
The group demonstrated at the Donald Trump fundraiser near the OU campus Saturday afternoon and on the steps of a Bank of America facility in Oklahoma City, as well as a board of adjustment meeting in Norman.
The company installing the pipeline, Plains All American Pipeline, transports, stores and markets oil and natural gas in the United States and Canada. The company is one of the world’s largest, with more than $40 billion of revenue in 2014.
It has also been responsible for some of the largest oil spills in the United States and Canada. In 2011, a pipeline rupture in near Little Buffalo resulted in 28,000 barrels of spilled oil in northern Alberta, one of the largest land-based oil spills of all time. In May of last year, more than 2,500 barrels spilled in Santa Barbara, California, shutting down popular beaches, polluting nine miles of coastline and spreading into the ocean.
“Our specific goal is to stop Plains All American Pipeline,” Ashley Nicole McCray, one of the organizers of the coalition, said at a fundraiser for No Plains Pipeline Friday night. “It’s important to fight other pipelines, but Oklahoma is the pipeline crossroads. Ultimately, these other pipelines will be intersecting at some point in Oklahoma. This is the belly of the beast.”
Cary Fleck, an OU student who helped plan a march on the OU campus last week that led from the South Oval to the President’s House, isn’t an organizer with the group. But she saw what No Plains Pipeline was doing and wanted to inspire some of her fellow students to join the movement.
“I want students to be aware of what’s happening,” Fleck said. “I’ve seen the incredible work [No Plains Pipeline] has been doing, and we wanted to stand in solidarity with them and No Dakota Access Pipeline as well. We can be complicit with some horrible things happening in our community just by not educating ourselves.”
McCray said No Plains Pipeline has been working to educate rural farmers and members of the Absentee Shawnee Tribe in Little Axe on the pipeline.
“It’s important for us to turn all of this knowledge and consciousness to action,” she said. “When this pipeline does spill, it will impact all of Norman. We really want this pipeline stopped, and we’re willing to do what it takes to see that happen.”
The biggest concerns are both environmental and cultural. McCray views herself as a protector rather than a protestor. As a Native American woman, she feels a strong connection between herself and the earth.
“Water is life,” she said. “Everyone needs water to drink. Beyond that, resource extraction is rape of the earth. As an indigenous woman, I feel a strong connection to the earth. We’re both givers and sustainers of life. It’s important for me to protect her, because she sustains me.”
The coalition frequently posts updates on its events on its Facebook group page, Stop the Plains All American - Red River Pipeline.
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