An executive order was signed by President Trump giving the go ahead for the construction and/or completion of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. Keystone XL was halted when the Environmental Protection Agency (under Obama) advised it should not be approved, and Dakota Access has been halted while an Environmental Impact Statement is undertaken.
There is no doubt that oil pipelines, environmental concerns vs. jobs, and energy independence are contentious issues – there are valid concerns on both sides – but is there really no alternative to oil pipelines that pose a risk to this country’s (and the world’s) environmental health? Is there going to be any meaningful discussions around it?
Judging by the way President Trump has conducted his first week in office, I have serious reservations. Even the people put forward as potential cabinet picks seem diametrically opposed to the offices they seek to serve in …
Rick Perry, for example, is the pick for Energy Secretary … he has had to retract a previous statement that the Department of Energy (the one he would be heading) should be scrapped … and he has recently had to resign from being on the board of the two companies that are developing the Dakota Access pipeline (Sunoco Logistics Partners LP and Energy Transfer Partners LP). He has also promised to financially divest from these same two companies if he is approved. Is he going to fully look into oil pipeline alternatives given he was so invested in them?
The same goes for Scott Pruitt who is the President’s pick for Environmental Protection Agency Administrator (E.P.A). He has sued the E.P.A a number of times over the implementation of stricter clean water and air safeguards, while also receiving financial contributions from the companies who were also suing the E.P.A, and who would benefit from these air and water protections not being put in place. Is he also going to seriously consider and be a part of discussions about safer alternatives to environmental issues?
Donald Trump himself has had to divest his stock in Energy Transfer Partners LP (like Rick Perry), and Phillips 66 which owns part of the Dakota Access pipeline … so suddenly the reason for the executive order (and potential cabinet picks) becomes clear. Even though they no longer stand to gain financially from the construction of the Dakota pipeline, the discussion as to whether it should even go ahead, and a look at the impact on the environment, was never going to be had.
The executive order signed by President Trump basically tells the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to quickly review and push through approval for the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. This is part of the reason that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed a lawsuit in July 2016 with the federal court in Washington D.C. – that the checks and balances meant to be undertaken, and not rushed through, were not being done. Environmental and historic preservation statutes put in place were not being followed, and now it seems that this administration are in agreement that the laws put in place do not apply to them.
The Corps granted permits for the pipeline in July 2016 under a highly streamlined approval process known as Nationwide Permitting. The process circumvents any kind of close environmental review and public process. The Lake Oahe crossing requires an additional approval—known as an easement—because it crosses federally owned land on either side of the Missouri River. Via EarthJustice who represented The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and all the water protectors, have said that it would pass through tribal lands, important areas of wildlife – not to mention trample on treaty rights and artefacts of great ancestral importance. The Dakota Access pipeline would be constructed upstream of the reservation’s water supply, and if it were to spill, it would essentially poison their water. A disaster that would not only take a great amount of money to clean up, but would contaminate the water for a very long time – but as this executive order seems to suggest – again – is that the needs of the Native Americans, and the environment they seek to protect for us all, is not at the forefront of this administrations consideration.
Jobs and energy independence are important, nobody is saying that they are not, but both those things can be found by creating, building, working, and maintaining renewable energy. Before any executive order for pipelines were signed, could this have been seriously looked into as a potential plan instead?
Having seen the first week of a Trump presidency, I am more worried than ever, but like many, I am more resolute than ever, and more active than ever when standing up for what I hold dear. The ban on people coming from certain countries, the threat to women being autonomous over their own bodies and reproductive rights, the disinterest in the protection of indigenous peoples, their land, water and their rights, the environment – to name a few – and how this administration seems to be handling these issues leaves me deeply concerned, but tenaciously purposeful.
What are your thoughts on how President Trump’s first week in office has gone?
Featured image via Sacred Stone Camp NoDAPL message Credit Joe Brusky