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The Dakota Access Pipeline debate: 4 things you need to know now

Born and raised in the Bronx, Lashanda Anakwah is an Ithaca College senior interested in all things political or poetical. When she’s not writing for SheKnows, Lashanda — a chocolate-loving, cartoon enthusiast — spends most of her time s...

Why the Dakota Access Pipeline fight is one every American should be watching

The North Dakota Access pipeline has been trending all week. The months-long protest is picking up steam and celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Susan Sarandon and Shailene Woodley have voiced their support. So it's fair to ask: What exactly is going on?

Since its inception, the pipeline has been the source of contended debate and protest. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which owns land that at least part of the line is slated to be built on, have sued the federal government, alleging the tribe was not properly consulted about the project. A judge has just ordered a halt in construction, but every day seems to unveil another important development.

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There have been reports of desecrated burial sites and when protesters and police officers clashed violently, dogs were let loose on protesters. So what's the deal?

1. It's going to be huge (if it's ever built)

The pipeline — as proposed — is a 1,168-mile U.S. oil route that would stretch through four states. The purpose of the pipeline is to transfer crude oil from North Dakota into South Dakota, through Iowa and to Illinois. The project will cost $3.7 billion to complete — if it's ever done.

2. It's all about the money, money, money

Proponents of the plan believe the North Dakota Access Pipeline is an important step in helping the United States become more self-reliant in terms of energy instead of relying on foreign nations. Economists say it will give the state of North Dakota $156 million in sales and income taxes along with adding up to 12,000 construction jobs. Dakota Access, the project developer, claims the pipeline is the safest, most cost-effective, environmentally friendly way to extract the crude oil reserves found in North Dakota. The alternative would mean depending on rails and trucks.

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3. The Stand Rock Sioux Tribe is leading the charge

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is a federally recognized Indian tribe centered in the Fort Yates, North Dakota, area. Tribal leaders say the construction of the pipeline threatens the tribe's environmental and economic well-being. The pipeline, according to the Sioux tribe, would also damage the site's history, religion and culture. The safety of the tribe's drinking water is also a looming question. Environmental groups have joined the tribe to petition the construction of the pipeline, with hopes that President Obama will reject the project as he did the Keystone XL pipeline. The petition to stop the whole thing had reached 300,000 signatures at press time.

4. It's all up to the courts

The North Dakota Access pipeline protest is being touted as the largest gathering of Native American tribes in 100 years. The fight continues. Jill Stein, the Green Party's presidential nominee, is facing charges for spray-painting a bulldozer that will be used for the pipeline's construction.

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Dakota Access has agreed to halt construction until Friday, when a federal judge will rule on an injunction filed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to stop the pipeline's construction.

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