To hear environmental activists tell it, the Dakota Access Pipeline Project has run roughshod over Native American rights, heritage — and objections.

But to hear the federal judge presiding over the case tell it, the company building the pipeline and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have been both diligent and respectful in their efforts to address Native American concerns.

I’m with the judge on this one.

The pipeline will transport about 500,000 barrels of crude oil per day nearly 1,200 miles from the Bakken shale formation in northwest North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa, arriving at refineries in Illinois.

About 99 percent of the pipeline is on private land and needs no federal permits. About half of the project is complete, and the pipeline company, Energy Transfer Partners, is proceeding apace on most of the remaining portions.

But the pipeline crosses a number of waterways and is close to some culturally sensitive areas and needs permits from the Corps, which it has granted.

Enter the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which is now trying to scuttle the pipeline, aided and abetted by lots of outside activists — including Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, who defaced private property for a photo-op and earned an arrest warrant for her malicious actions.

The tribe claims that the Corps failed to consult it, but U.S. District Judge James Boasberg wrote in his 58-page, Sept. 9 opinion that the Corps had tried to reach out to the tribe on multiple occasions with little to no response.

“Suffice it to say that the tribe largely refused to engage in consultations,” the judge said. Eventually, the tribe became responsive, but only in a last-minute effort to stop all progress.

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The tribe also claims the pipeline ignores important Indian heritage lands, but the judge disagreed, pointing out that the company used “past cultural surveys” to avoid historic sites.

“Professionally licensed archeologists conducted Class II cultural surveys,” and in some places “more intensive Class III cultural surveys.”

And “where this surveying revealed previously unidentified historic or cultural resources that might be affected, the company mostly chose to reroute.”

The judge concluded, “By the time the company finally settled on a construction path, then, the pipeline route had been modified 140 times in North Dakota alone to avoid potential cultural resources.”

That sounds like accommodation, not exploitation.

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In addition, the Dakota Access Pipeline intentionally parallels, within 300 feet or less, a natural gas pipeline that has been in operation for years.

According to Judge Boasberg, “Dakota Access chose this route because these locations had ‘been disturbed in the past — both above and below ground level’ … This made it less likely, then, that new ground disturbances would harm intact cultural or tribal features.”

In short, the judge rejected virtually all of the tribe’s claims with well-documented reasons.

If safety were the tribe’s real concern, then it would embrace pipelines. As Scientific American points out, the 2.5 million miles of U.S. “pipelines are roughly 70 times safer than trucks when it comes to transporting fuel.”

The article rightly notes that many of those pipelines are aging. But that’s exactly why you want companies like Energy Transfer Partners — or TransCanada for the Keystone XL pipeline — building new pipelines with the latest technology and environmental protections.

But then the issue was never about safety, not really. Raising concerns about threats to Indian historic sites is simply a tactic the Left is using to achieve its larger goal: ending the use of fossil fuels. It successfully employed similar tactics when fighting the Keystone XL pipeline.

The Left won the Keystone XL battle, for the time being, thanks to a like-minded president of the United States. And it thinks it can win again, in the media if not in the courts.

Those who believe we need fossil fuels — at least for the foreseeable future — to power our economy and protect us from foreign threats will need to resist these radical efforts.

This fight isn’t about protecting our cultural heritage; we’re doing that. It’s about protecting our way of life.

Merrill Matthews is a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation in Dallas. Follow at twitter.com/MerrillMatthews.Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions.

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