By Miriam Raftery
Photo: bird coated in petroleum from an oil spill; there have been hundreds of pipeline leaks and spills across the U.S in recent years
January 24, 2017 (Washington D.C.) – Environmentalists and Native American activists are voicing dismay and pledging to fight back against executive orders signed by President Donald Trump to advance construction of the controversial Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines.
The Obama administration had halted the Keystone XL pipeline and the Army Corps of Engineers had agreed to reroute a portion of the Dakota Access pipeline to avoid going under a river that supplied drinking water for Native American tribes including the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota, where over 300 tribes nationwide converged last year in protests that drew international media coverage.
Trump ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to quickly review and approve construction and easement requests for the Dakota Access pipeline. He also invited TransCanada, builder of the Keystone XL, to resubmit its application to his administration, which the company has said it will do. Trump’s executive orders also require that all materials for both pipelines be made in the U.S.
Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota released a statement praising the president's actions, calling the pipelines "crucial energy infrastructure projects" and saying they would create jobs.
TransCanada, builder of the Keystone XL, has said it will resubmit its application though originally the company planned to get 35% of its supplies outside of the U.S.
But David Archambault II, Tribal Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, issued a statement calling Trump’s action “politically motivated,” adding that the decision “violates the law and the Tribe will take action to fight it.”
The tribe’s attorney, Jan Hasselman, said today that the tribe will fill a lawsuit.
“By granting the easement, Trump is risking our treaty rights and water supply to benefit his wealthy contributors and friends at DAPL,” Archambault stated. “Americans know this pipeline was unfairly rerouted towards our nation without our consent. The existing pipeline route risks infringing on our treaty rights, contaminating our water and the water of 17 million Americans downstream...Creating a second Flint does not make America great again.”
Asked by a reporter what message he would send to the Standing Rock Sioux after signing the pipeline order, Trump refused to answer.
Locally, Barona tribal member Bobby Wallace decried the Trump announcement as “too much.” He has organized relief caravans bringing supplies donated by San Diegans and local tribal members to support water protectors in Cannonball, North Dakota supporting the Standing Rock Sioux.
Meanwhile, “water protectors are preparing to put their bodies on the line” to try and stop the project line despite a recent resumption of violence by police and arrests targeting the demonstrators encamped amid snow and sub-freezing temperatures, Indigenous People reports. Demonstrators have already endured water cannons, rubber bullets, pepper spray and dog attacks launched by police and/or private security forces employed by the pipeline company in which some Trump administration officials have financial interests.
Bill McKibben, founder of the activist group 350.org, which has fought both the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, said the decision to allow the projects to move forward ignores the massive opposition expressed through public protests and comments to government agencies, the Washington Post reports. That includes protests held in San Diego due to huge amounts of carbon that tar sands set for transport in the pipeline would release, exacerbating climate change.
“The world’s climate scientists and its Nobel laureates explained over and over why it was unwise and immoral,” McKibben said in a statement. “In one of his first actions as president, Donald Trump ignores all that in his eagerness to serve the oil industry. It’s a dark day for a reason, but we will continue to fight.”