On Tuesday, President Donald Trump took steps towards advancing two controversial and fiercely disputed pipelines that were delayed by Obama. Trump signed executive orders to advance the construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, marking a bitter defeat for Native American tribes and climate activists.
Trump campaigned on the promise to increase domestic energy production. Before taking office, he’d indicated support for the completion of the Dakota pipeline, as well as reviving the Keystone project.
The Keystone XL is a $6.1 billion USD Transcanada Corp. project that would bring more than 800,000 barrels a day from Canada to the US Gulf Coast. Environmentalists campaigned against the pipeline for more than seven years. They won when Obama rejected the project in 2015.
“President Trump appears to be ignoring the law, public sentiment and ethical considerations with this executive order aimed at resurrecting the long-rejected Keystone XL pipeline and circumventing the ongoing environmental review process for the highly controversial Dakota Access pipeline,” Trip Van Noppen, president of nonprofit environmental law organization Earthjustice said in a statement. Earthjustice represents the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in court.
Activists, calling themselves ‘water protectors,’ protested for months against plans to route the $3.8 billion Dakota pipeline beneath a lake near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. They claimed it threatened sacred Native American sites and risks contaminating water supplies. Energy Transfer Partners, the company that is building the pipeline, disputed that and said it was safe.
At its peak, there were nearly 10,000 protesters, including a contingent of 4,000 veterans. Celebrities, including Shailene Woodley and Mark Ruffalo, also joined the protest.
In many instances, protests turned violent, with police using concussion grenades, water cannons, and pepper spray. Amnesty International and the UN sent human rights observers.
In a statement, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe said they would take legal action to fight the orders.
“President Trump is legally required to honor our treaty rights and provide a fair and reasonable pipeline process,” said Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. “Americans know this pipeline was unfairly rerouted towards our nation and without our consent. The existing pipeline route risks infringing on our treaty rights, contaminating our water and the water of 17 million Americans downstream.”
The Standing Rock tribe won a key victory in Dec. of last year, when the US Army Corp of Engineers turned down ETP’s request for an easement to tunnel under the Missouri River. Although most activists left the camps after the decision, many are still there.
The Army Corps had said earlier this month that they would begin an environmental assessment. The assessment, to be done for the full pipeline, could delay the project up to two years. It is unclear if the executive order will supersede this decision.
In Washington, Trump has said that Keystone XL will create 28,000 jobs. This figure, however, is at odds with a 2014 US State Department environmental study which said that it would create 3,900 construction jobs and 35 permanent ones.
Transcanada Corp. shares were up 2.9 percent, while ETP shares were up 4 percent.
According to Reuters, Trump owned ETP stock until sometime in mid-2016. ETP’s chief executive, Kelcy Warren, also donated $100,000 to Trump’s campaign.