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Opinion

Why Seniors Need to Stand Up to Activists on Energy Development

American retirees spend a considerable portion of their savings on heating their houses and running their cars, all the while, susceptible to swift changes in the energy market which are out of their control. Historically, much of that energy has come from foreign resources. But with the advent of hydraulic fracturing and new energy resources, like the Bakken in North Dakota, that is dramatically shifting. We are entering an era of American energy independence, one that will help consumers at home and create jobs. But there’s one hurdle: safe infrastructure to move that energy to market.

Whether it’s heating or cooling your home or putting gas in your car, the cheaper the energy, the more economically stable your checkbook will be. The 60 Plus Association’s 5.5 million members know this all too well.

This is why as an organization that champions free enterprise and who have championed energy issues for seniors before, we strongly support the Dakota Access pipeline. Dakota Access is a 1,172 mile long pipeline connecting the resource-rich Bakken region with various energy consumers across four states (North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois). The Dakota Access project has worked tirelessly with local stakeholders and even received the Army Corps of Engineers’ approval on the entire project.

For the hundreds of communities surrounding Dakota Access, the project represents a monumental economic opportunity. Early estimates suggest the project will create 8,000-12,000 jobs, plus an unknown number of support industry employment opportunities. The project will translate into $156 million in sales and income taxes during the construction phase alone. Moreover, $55 million will be generated annually from property taxes across the four states. This money can be spent on hospitals, schools, public works projects, or to alleviate state budget deficits.

Finally, the pipeline will transport approximately 470,000 barrels per day with a capacity as high as 570,000 barrels per day or more — approximately half of Bakken current daily production. It is simple economics, as supply increases, prices drop.

Seniors who live within the economic reach of Dakota Access would be the principal beneficiaries of all of the positive externalities — especially lower energy costs.

Unfortunately, the completion of the Dakota Access pipeline is threatened by the ongoing protest. A small, yet vocal minority, much of which refused to engage during the orderly process, is resorting to dangerous tactics to stop this project. Just recently, a man attached himself to pipeline machinery as onlookers cheered him on and criticized law enforcement — it took nearly six hours for first responders to remove him safely, all the while being taunted and yelled at by tribal members and allies – in fact, some protesters indicated that they were glad it took so long because it cost the state money. Even more alarming, is that earlier this summer, police continue to investigate  reports of arson at a construction site likely related to opposition activity.

Despite failing to make their case during the project’s review process, activists — and now the Obama administration — are trying to stop the project in its tracks. During the approval process, there were 32 public meetings across the four states and 389 tribal meetings regarding cultural areas between the Army Corps of Engineers and tribes. In addition, the seven meeting invitations offered by Dakota Access officials were turned down by the Tribe. As the opposition’s ranks swell, activists have intimidated pipeline workers and enforcement officials who are simply trying to do their job.

Seniors in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois shouldn’t have their economic prosperity threatened by a small group of activists.

 

Jim Martin is the Founder and Chairman of the 60 Plus Association. His organization counts more than 650,000 seniors in the affected four states.

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