Nearly a year after President Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, controversy over another oil pipeline project threatens to deepen divisions between two key Democratic constituencies, labor unions and environmentalists.
The Dakota Access pipeline, which will carry oil from North Dakota’s Bakken shale formation through four states, has drawn vehement opposition from environmental groups. It was recently targeted by a string of arson attacks.
On the other side of the fight is organized labor, which says the pipeline is a source of high-paying union jobs. Many of the unions going to bat for the pipeline also supported Keystone XL, the rejection of which drove a wedge between segments of the labor and environmental movements.
The planned $3.7 billion, 1,172-mile pipeline will carry oil from the Bakken through North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois. All four states have signed off on the project, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave it the final regulatory go-ahead late last month.
Tensions have flared since then as environmental groups seek to block the pipeline’s construction. It was hit with three arson attacks in early August, and 12 protesters were arrested on Thursday after clashing with police.
Two environmental groups, EarthJustice and Oil Change International, are leading opposition to the project, organizing online petitions asking the Army Corps of Engineers to reject it.
The cause has drawn high-profile support from celebrities Leonardo DiCaprio, Rosario Dawson, and Shailene Woodley. Native American tribes along the pipeline route have also protested its construction.