BISMARCK -- Oil and gas development has led to a revitalization of rural North Dakota, bringing new businesses to the region, more jobs and employees, and more families. Although the economic benefits continue to be appreciated, this rapid growth also led to a strain on our state’s aging infrastructure as more cars and semis congested highways and oil tankers took to the railways. The industry heard these concerns loud and clear. The only way to reduce truck traffic, congestion on the railways and address the challenge of flaring was to build pipelines. Since then, billions of dollars have been spent to develop this critical infrastructure.

Consequently, we’ve seen a huge reduction in truck traffic, crude being moved by rail and flared gas. Today, more than 3 million barrels of fluid are moved safely each day in North Dakota with very few failures. Nationally, there are more than 190,000 miles of petroleum pipelines traversing the U.S. and 99.99 percent of the product reaches its destination safely.

Many of us aren’t even aware that more than 1.2 billion barrels of oil annually are safely being transported beneath our feet. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, that is “due to the strong safety record of pipelines and the fact that most of them are located underground [which] protects them from damage and helps protect our communities as well.”

The Dakota Access Pipeline will further add to that safety record, helping transport the equivalent of up to 798 rail cars and 2,850 semis of crude oil daily. It will also help the MHA Nation get its valuable crude to market, benefitting its people and workers. In its first year, it will generate more than $13.1 million in property taxes along its route in North Dakota, helping fund schools, emergency services, infrastructure and property tax relief for individuals. But perhaps most important, it will deliver American oil to refineries, reducing our dependence on foreign oil and increasing our national security.

North Dakotans asked for better infrastructure and a majority of North Dakotans support this vital project. After two years of vetting and environmental reviews, it also has the approval of four states, the federal government, and the individual landowners of 97 percent of the properties along the route.

Unfortunately, a small but vocal group led by out-of-state activists and environmentalists who do not have the state’s best interests at heart have been using violence, trespass and intimidation to try and upend this lawful project. This has not only put the safety of the labor union workers who are building this project at risk, but it has also threatened the safety of law enforcement and even the peaceful protesters.

North Dakotans have a long record of working together. The actions of extreme groups like Earthjustice, Bold and American Indian Movement that are backing this protest do not align with this North Dakota value, and they certainly don’t align with what’s best for the state or its people. These groups instead have made it abundantly clear that their sole objective is to completely halt any and all energy production, no matter the cost to middle class Americans or the loss of tens of thousands of jobs.

We hope for the peaceful and lawful resolution to this situation and the continued construction of this vital infrastructure project that will provide so many benefits to this state and nation. Let’s stop protesting progress and start getting this pipe in the ground to further improve our energy security.

Ness is the president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council. He has held that position since 1999, his primary function is governmental relations in North Dakota. He serves as the industry spokesperson and manages the association.