KC committee opposes Dakota pipeline that would run under Missouri River

By Lynn Horsley, originally posted on November 9, 2016


More than 100 people packed the Kansas City Council chamber Wednesday in opposition to the planned Dakota Access Pipeline that would run under the Missouri River.

The Public Safety and Neighborhoods committee endorsed the environmental justice resolution in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council, and the measure goes to the full Council Thursday for debate.

At first, resolution sponsor Katheryn Shields said she was going to pull her measure because she was heartbroken by Tuesday’s election. She said she felt the incoming Donald Trump administration and Republican Congress might well defund the Environmental Protection Agency, and her resolution against the pipeline development would just fall on deaf ears in Washington, D.C.

But after impassioned appeals from members of the crowd, Shields relented and voted to advance her resolution to the council for Thursday’s vote.

Councilmembers Alissia Canady and Quinton Lucas agreed, although Lucas said he may vote against the measure Thursday because he believes it’s a federal matter, not a city matter. Councilwoman Heather Hall left the meeting before the vote.

Shields said the testimony convinced her the resolution sent a crucial message to the Native American tribes fighting the pipeline, “to say we support them.”

Tearfully, she added, “Whether anyone in Washington listens is beside the point.”

The crowd at City Hall is fighting the proposed pipeline, which would carry a half million barrels per day of crude oil from the Bakken shale oil fields of North Dakota to Illinois, would could adversely affect the Missouri River watershed and fragile landscapes and Native American cultural resources.

The committee was asked to endorse a resolution similar to one adopted by St. Louis; St. Paul, Minn.; and Cleveland elected leaders, in opposition to the pipeline and in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council.

Supporters worry the pipeline could contaminate Missouri River drinking water along and downstream from the proposed route, through North and South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois. The Missouri River is the drinking water source for Kansas City and many other cities in Missouri.

Environmental activists see the pipeline as a threat to Native American sacred spaces and to the Missouri River watershed. Kansas City Chief Environmental Officer Dennis Murphey cited oil spills in recent years in the Yellowstone and Kalamazoo rivers as indicative of the risks.

John Fish Kurmann, a member of 350 Kansas City, a climate action organization, testified Wednesday that climate change is an emergency that the City Council should not ignore.

“Now is not the time to go into a defensive crouch,” he said. “Now is not the time to back down.”

Mary Benrud of the Kansas City area said she had spent three weeks at Standing Rock in solidarity with protesters there, on behalf of her children and grandchildren.

“I want my children to have clean drinking water,” she said, adding that the resolution would be a great encouragement to the tribes protesting the project.

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