President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed executive orders advancing both the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, to acclaim from industry and North Dakota lawmakers, and criticism from members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and protest groups.
The Keystone XL order invites TransCanada Corporation to resubmit its Keystone XL application and directs the State Department to expedite its review. The Dakota Access order directs all federal agencies, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite approval of an easement to complete the pipeline, which has been stymied by a national protest after members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe questioned whether their water and sacred sites would be adequately protected at the pipeline’s Lake Oahe crossing.
The pipeline is mostly complete now, but under the Obama administration was facing a more extensive Environmental Impact Statement exploring alternate routes. It is not clear exactly how things will unfold through the agency.
One plausible scenario, industry leaders suggested, revolves around a contention by Energy Transfer Partners that the easement for its pipeline was granted already as part of the permitting process and needs no further review.
Members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe vowed to fight Trump’s decision in court.
“President Trump is legally required to honor our treaty rights and provide a fair and reasonable pipeline process,” Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said.
“By granting the easement, Trump is risking our treaty rights and water supply to benefit his wealthy contributors and friends at DAPL. We are not opposed to energy independence. We are opposed to reckless and politically motivated development projects, like DAPL, that ignore our treaty rights and risk our water. Creating a second Flint does not make America great again.”
North Dakota lawmakers, on the other hand, pointed to a lengthy process that has already been followed to site and permit the pipeline, which leaders of the Bakken oil and gas industry say is vital to its future.
“Today’s executive orders affirm President Trump’s respect for the rule of law and his support for responsible infrastructure development, energy production and job creation,” Said Congressman Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.
North Dakota Senators John Hoeven, R-N.D. and Heidi Heitkamp also praised Trump’s action, as did Montana Senator Steve Daines, R-Mont.
“We made a strong case with the new administration for approving an easement for the Dakota Access pipeline without delay,” Hoeven said. “The company has complied with all federal and state requirements and should be allowed to complete the project. Today, the Trump administration followed the law and reversed the Obama administration’s decision to delay the project. Pipelines like the Dakota Access Pipeline can be built safely and protect both the tribe and everyone living downstream.”
Heitkamp said the decision removes uncertainty for all those involved, which has lasted for too long, and called on protesters to leave the area.
“For too long, inaction or indecision paved the way, even after the courts already stated twice that the Corps followed the required process in considering the permit,” she said. “Safety for everyone involved — law enforcement officers, residents, landowners, tribal members and protesters — continues to remain my top priority. Just as Chairman Archambault, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council and Governor Burgum have said, protesters must leave the camp north of the Cannonball River before potentially dangerous flooding happens this spring — and as early as March — since the camp sits in a floodplain, and failing to do so could put the safety of both protesters and law enforcement at risk.”
Daines, who was cosponsor of a bill in 2015 to approve construction of Keystone XL, said pipelines are a win for good-paying jobs for all concerned.
“After years of talk and political nonsense, I couldn’t be more thrilled that President Trump has heeded my call to move forward construction of this (Keystone XL) project,” he said.
He estimated Keystone would generate about 800 jobs in Montana, generating $80 million in Montana property taxes of which more than $16 million would go to schools.
Hoeven and Heitkamp both suggested the federal permitting process for infrastructure projects like Dakota Access that pass through or near tribal lands would be improved going forward, and also called on the federal government to provide funds to assist North Dakota with expenses related to the protest. The state has estimated the tab on law enforcement actions in the area at more than $22 million.
Industry leaders, meanwhile, also praised the decision and said it signals that America is open for business.
“To us, this is a clear symbol that America is open for business,” Ross Eisenberg, with the National Association of Manufacturers said. “That is a sign manufacturing has been looking for on energy and everything else. Delays have hurt these projects the most, and it has been hurting them for years now. The cost of just waiting for that permit. Here we have three strong, clear steps to try and make sure that doesn’t happen any more. That is something manufacturing has been asking for for years, and we are glad to see it.”
Ron Ness, President of the North Dakota Petroleum Council said the orders herald a new beginning for a North American energy renaissance.
“We applaud President Trump’s decision to make good on his promises and move these two projects forward,” he said. “His actions today will enhance our nation’s energy and economic security and help resume our nation’s efforts to build better, more modern and technologically advanced infrastructure.”
Kevin Pranis, with the Laborer’s District Council of Minnesota and North Dakota, which is providing many of the pipeline’s workers, said that Dakota Access is necessary infrastructure, and will improve overall safety.
“Once completed, DAPL will make North Dakota safer and more prosperous by providing a more reliable means for transporting Bakken oil, and reducing the risk of a deadly rail accident,” he said. “We have always believed that the decision to halt work on DAPL was unlawful and unwise effort to turn back the regulatory clock on an already-permitted project. Today’s action restores integrity to the process and allow sour members to get back to work.”