WASHINGTON, DC, January 24, 2017 (ENS) – President Donald Trump today reopened negotiations for construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines, reversing the actions of his predecessor, President Barack Obama, and frustrating environmentalists and Native Americans who had fought both pipelines to a standstill.
In 2015, President Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline which would transport heavy crude oil from the Alberta tar sands to the Midwest for further transport to refineries on the Gulf Coast.
Environmental groups in the United States and Canada have objected and demonstrated against the Keystone XL proposal for years, warning that increased production and burning of tar sands oil would worsen climate change.
In December, Obama ordered further environmental review of the nearly completed Dakota Access Pipeline, DAPL, instructing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers not approve an easement that would allow the proposed pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota.
The Standing Rock Sioux set up a pipeline protest camp, enduring police brutality to object that a spill from DAPL would contaminate drinking water on their reservation, which lies half a mile south of the proposed crossing and could affect the millions of people who get their drinking water from the Missouri River.
Trump did not approve construction of either pipeline, but he ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to “review and approve in an expedited manner … requests for approvals to construct and operate the DAPL, including easements or rights-of-way to cross Federal areas,” under applicable laws.
He ordered the U.S. Army Corps to “consider … whether to withdraw the Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement in Connection with Dakota Access, LLC’s Request for an Easement to Cross Lake Oahe, North Dakota, dated January 18, 2017…”
Trump also ordered the U.S. Army Corps to “issue, to the extent permitted by law and as warranted, any approved easements or rights-of-way immediately after notice is provided to the Congress…”
Trump is asking TransCanada, the developer of Keystone XL, to resubmit an application to allow the pipeline to cross the U.S.-Canada border. He wants a “renegotiation” of terms and is insisting that developers use steel manufactured in the United States.
The memoranda signed Tuesday include a directive Trump explained would expedite environmental reviews and approvals for “high-priority infrastructure projects.”
“Donald Trump is wasting no time in digging up two of the worst oil industry projects in the past decade and trying to rush them out the door,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity. “If it wasn’t clear before that Trump is acting at the behest of the oil industry, it certainly is now.”
“Anyway you look at it, the Keystone XL pipeline is an environmental disaster. Not only does it dig us deeper into the climate crisis, but the State Department predicts it could spill oil up to 100 times during its lifetime,” Suckling said.
Ben Schreiber, senior political strategist with Friends of the Earth Action, said, “We can fight the pipelines at the state level. TransCanada, the company behind Keystone XL, still needs to go back and get new permits from states like Nebraska – where opposition remains fierce. So we’re going to turn up the heat in those states to deny the permits.”
“We can fight him in court. After all, he’s President, not Emperor,” said Schreiber. “He still has to follow the law.”
“We can show Trump and other decision makers that the American people don’t want these pipelines. President Obama stopped the pipelines in response to enormous public pressure,” said Schreiber. “So now we are working to build on the history-making grassroots support that we all saw at the Women’s March last weekend to show Trump that there is a political price for these betrayals. Keystone XL and Dakota Access are not going to be built without a fight!
“Trump hasn’t even been in office for a week and he’s already ignoring tribal leaders and brave protectors trying to safeguard their land and resources,” Suckling said. “The Dakota Access Pipeline is profoundly wrong on so many levels — but that doesn’t seem to matter to the new president. But he should know: The thousands of people who rose up to fight Keystone XL and DAPL are strong and mobilized, and they aren’t going away.”
A rally is planned in front of the White House tonight demonstrating opposition to President Trump’s executive actions advancing construction on the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.
Indigenous leaders and opponents of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines will gather with signs and banners, joining the Indigenous Environmental Network, 350.org, the Sierra Club, CREDO, and many other groups. The rally will be led by Jade Begay, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network, in town from Standing Rock, and Eryn Wise, International Indigenous Youth Council at Standing Rock.
Other actions are being planned nationwide in conjunction with tonight’s event.
Anna Galland, executive director of MoveOn.org Civic Action, said, “Less than four days into Trump’s presidency, it is clear that the next four years will be about catering to corporate interests and big donors instead of putting American families and communities first.”
“Overruling the scientists and experts who have previously warned about the dangers of these pipelines puts big oil profits above all else,” said Galland. “This move by the President is dangerous, reckless and heartless.”
But the environmental groups have lost an ally in this fight.
LIUNA, the Laborers’ International Union of North America, said today it has left the BlueGreen Alliance “in response to job-killing attacks on the Keystone XL pipeline by some of the alliance’s labor and environmentalist members.”
“AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka recently said there was a divide in the labor movement over this project,” LIUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan said. “That is an understatement. That divide is as deep and wide as the Grand Canyon. We’re repulsed by some of our supposed brothers and sisters lining up with job killers like the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council to destroy the lives of working men and women.”
O’Sullivan said Keystone is only the beginning of what will likely be a protracted struggle over major projects to build and strengthen America’s energy infrastructure.
LIUNA plans to unite with the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department to fight for jobs that build America and strengthen U.S. energy resources.
In addition to expansion of solar, wind and geothermal power, LIUNA favors expansion of other energy resources, such as clean coal, natural gas and nuclear power.
“We believe in protecting the planet, but we must also care about the people on it,” O’Sullivan said. “We believe green jobs must put green in workers’ pockets.”