Trump signs executive orders to restart work on Keystone XL, Dakota Access pipelines

The Dakota Access pipeline (Photo Credit: Tony Webster via Flickr Creative Commons)

President Trump signed another raft of executive orders this morning, breathing new life into two massive oil pipelines, and pledging to ease what he called a cumbersome regulatory system. FSRN’s Nell Abram has more.

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Just three days after the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe called for the remaining protest camps near their reservation to close, President Donald Trump signed executive orders reviving the Dakota Access and the Keystone XL pipeline projects.

In an Oval Office signing ceremony, Trump issued a series of presidential memoranda advancing the two highly controversial and contested pipelines and ordering that permitting and approval for all major infrastructure projects be expedited.

“This is with regard to the Keystone Pipeline, something that’s been in dispute, and its subject to a renegotiation of terms by us,” Trump told reporters. “We are going to renegotiate some of the terms. And if they like, we’ll see if we can get that pipeline built. A lot of jobs, 28,000 jobs, great construction jobs.”

The Keystone Pipeline that Trump refers to is actually the Keystone XL, and those Construction jobs would nearly all be temporary.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer provided a few more details on the specifics of what Trump authorized: “The president started by signing a memorandum fulfilling a major promise to secure swift approval for the Keystone pipeline. The memorandum invites TransCanada to resubmit their proposal and directs agencies to approve it without delay.”

For years a symbol of the struggle to rein in fossil fuel consumption and slow climate change, then-President Barack Obama rejected the Keystone XL in 2015, saying it was not in the U.S. interest.

Because the pipeline would cross the U.S. border with Canada, the project technically falls under the purview of the State Department – an agency that, pending a final vote, will soon be led by the longtime CEO of ExxonMobil.

If built, the project would complete a fourth leg of the TransCanada pipeline, expanding its capacity to transport tar sands oil across the U.S. border, onto a hub in Nebraska and ultimately to the Texas Gulf Coast.

After issuing a similar “subject to renegotiation” disclaimer, Trump also signed a memo today regarding the contentious Dakota Access pipeline. According to Spicer, it directs relevant agencies to expedite reviews and approvals for the balance of the project,” which includes boring under the Missouri River.

“The $3.8 billion pipeline, already 90 percent complete, will carry over 500,000 barrels a day of crude oil from areas in North Dakota to oil markets in the U.S.,” Spicer said. “And in both of these areas, as the president remarked this morning, he’s going to ensure that we continue to negotiate in both areas to provide the best deal for the American taxpayer.”

When asked about what if anything he had to say to the Native Americans and their allies who have long been opposing the pipeline, Trump was uncharacteristically silent, until an aid quickly shut down the line of questioning.

“Any comment to the Standing Rock community – the protesters out there?” a reporter asked.

“Thank you press,” replied one unidentified staffer. “We’re good, thank you,” said another.

Hundreds of people are still camped at a number of sites near Standing Rock, remnants of the thousands who travelled to the area during the second half of last year. Pipeline opponents built an iconic encampment that eventually brought together more than 200 Native American nations in a historic show of solidarity.

Eryn Wise, Media Coordinator for the International Indigenous Youth Council and Sacred Stone Camp, says they hope people will continue to actively divest from banks that funding the projects.

“And we will continue disrupting the system, because we have experienced so much struggle in our lives and we have watched our ancestors fight and die for our right to stand here and speak today. Because we are keepers of the next seven generations we are going to continue opposing the Trump administration, because he does not fight for life, he fights for himself, he fights for his finances,” Wise explains. “That’s not how you run a country, that’s not how you take care of the American people.”

Wise said the Trump administration did not consult with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, or the rest of the Great Sioux and sovereign native nations prior to the action taken today.

“These decisions are further violating the treaty rights of indigenous people and we do not view these attacks as something that can be ignored. So our resistance is stronger now more than ever and we are ready to push back against any reckless decisions that are being made by the administration,” says Wise. “And I just encourage people to continue making a stand wherever they are, to take the momentum from things like our rallies against the Trump administration and our women’s marches, and take that power that we’ve gained and put it to good use. We need tangible actions; we need people to actually do things that aren’t just symbolic but actually impact change.”

As recently as a financial disclosure form filed in May of last year, Trump held investments in companies behind both of the pipelines he gave the green light to today. The president also issued orders today that aim to streamline what he called an incredibly cumbersome permitting process and reduce regulatory burdens for domestic manufacturing. And he ordered a study to review mandating that major infrastructure projects use only steel and pipe manufactured in the United States.

Indigenous leaders and climate activists are set to rally at the White House this evening.

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