UW Political Science Professor Aseem Prakash, his colleague Nives Dolsak from the UW School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, and Maggie Allen from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration contributed a guest article to The Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog. In the article, entitled “The big fight over the Dakota Access Pipeline, explained,” the authors discuss a new strategy employed by environmental activists. Instead of trying to get the government to change laws or put new regulations in place, environmental activists have refocused on “disrupting how the fossil fuel industry transports its products. […] The logic is simple,” the authors note, “if products cannot be moved, they cannot be sold and will not contribute to global warming.” This strategy has led environmental groups with global goals such as stopping global warming to build coalitions with Native American tribes which are foremost concerned with local issues, such as protecting their fishing rights and water supply. To illustrate this broader trend, the authors discuss various cases including the infamous Keystone XL Pipeline. They summarize their argument as follows:
Environmental activists — like other political actors — find it hard to get Congress and the executive branch to introduce new laws and regulations. Because the current system has many veto points, this has led them to think creatively about whether choke points elsewhere in the system can be exploited. The energy industry’s need for railroads and pipelines is one such choke point. If activists can band together with actors whom regulators need to take account of, or exert sufficient pressure in their own right, they can be very successful in stymieing the energy industry, and forcing it to take environmentalists’ concerns more seriously.
The article was published on The Washington Post website on September 20, 2016.