On Tuesday, President Trump signed an executive action to advance the constructions of the long embattled Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, fulfilling a campaign promise that leaves many environmental and indigenous rights activists concerned for the future.
Protesters took to the streets Tuesday night in New York, Seattle and Washington DC to decry the President’s decision to disregard the months-long demand of Water Protectors to respect tribal sovereignty and investigate the environmental impact of such pipelines. Wednesday morning, environmental activists associated with the organization GreenPeace scaled a construction crane behind the White House to hang a banner reading “Resist.”
“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,” read a statement from EarthJustice President Trip Van Noppen, the group representing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in court. “This move is legally questionable, at best. And based on what we know about Trump’s financial dealings in the Dakota Access pipeline, it raises serious ethical concerns. In the case of the Dakota Access pipeline, Trump’s actions are an affront to the Tribe and its Treaty rights especially since one again the tribes were not consulted before this action was taken.”
According to his financial disclosure forms, Trump owned stock in Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the company building the Dakota Access pipeline, through at least mid-2016, and the company’s chief executive, Kelcy Warren, donated $100,000 to his campaign.
In December, the Army Corps of Engineers announced that it would not permit the Dakota Access pipeline to be drilled under Lake Oahe and would look for alternative routes. Despite this exciting validation, many of the activists vowed to remain at the site to ensure construction didn’t move forward, despite increasingly treacherous winter weather conditions and brutal repression tactics by the police, including the use of rubber bullets, water cannons and tear gas.
For months, thousands of Water Protectors representing over 280 Tribes have been protesting the construction of the 1,200 mile, $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline that would carry nearly 470,000 barrels of oil a day under North Dakota’s Lake Oahe, which is a major water supply for local ranches, the Missouri River and the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. The pipeline would pass through the Tribe’s treaty lands, sacred sights and burial grounds, and a spill could contaminate the area’s water supply and pose a massive environmental, economic, cultural and public health threat to the Tribe.
The Dakota Access pipeline was originally supposed to go through Bismarck, but was moved after authorities worried an oil spill would contaminate the state capital’s drinking water. “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,” said chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, Dave Archambault II.
The Keystone XL pipeline was an $8 billion project that President Obama rejected in 2015, after activists lobbied for seven years to end the venture, arguing that the plan to extract crude oil from oil sands, as opposed to standard crude oil, would pump approximately 17 percent more greenhouse gases into the air. The pipeline was set to carry more than 800,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada to the Gulf Coast, but had the potential of polluting some 2,500 fresh water sources less than a mile from the proposed route.
After Tuesday’s executive action, the TransCanada Corp announced that they would be re-submitting their application to construct the pipeline.
Media Resources: CNN 1/25/17; EarthJustice 1/24/17; WUSA 9 1/25/17; Reuters 1/24/17; Feminist Majority Foundation 12/1/16, 12/5/17.