Trump signs memos to move forward on DAPL, Keystone XL pipelines
Pres. Donald Trump wasted little time getting the Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipeline projects back on track—projects halted or delayed under the Obama administration.
After being sworn in last Friday, Trump on Tuesday signed two presidential memoranda aimed at expediting the permit approval process for the stalled Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) being built by Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners and offering to restart the application process for the Keystone XL Pipeline proposed by TransCanada.
Another presidential memo Trump signed directs the Secretary of Commerce to develop a plan within 180 days for new, retrofitted or repaired pipelines to use materials and equipment produced in the U.S. “to the maximum extent possible.”
“This is a clear symbol that America’s open for business,” said Ross Eisenberg, vice president of energy and resources policy for the National Association of Manufacturers. “What hurt these projects more than anything else was the delay—the cost of just waiting for that permit. We have three very strong and clear steps taken today by this new president to try to make sure that doesn’t happen anymore.”
The 1,172-mile-long, $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline will carry about a half million barrels per day of oil from western North Dakota to a terminal in Patoka, Illinois. In July 2016, an environmental assessment of the pipeline conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found “no significant impact.”
In December last year, the Obama administration intervened to deny a permit from the Corps needed for the pipeline to cross under the Missouri River just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Reservation. The tribe claims the pipeline is a threat to its drinking water and cultural sites. Last week, the Corps issued a notice to conduct an environmental impact statement (EIS) on pipeline river crossing, which could delay completion of the project for years.
The presidential memorandum on DAPL directs the Secretary of the Army to instruct the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works and the Corp of Engineers to review and approve—in an expedited manner—requests to construct and operate the pipeline, including easements or rights-of-way to cross federal areas. The Army secretary was also directed to consider withdrawing the Corps’ notice to conduct an EIS and determine whether the agency’s environmental assessment satisfies requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act.
Congressman Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., who indicated that Trump was likely to take quick action on the DAPL project this week, praised the president for respecting the rule of law and supporting responsible infrastructure development, energy production, energy security and job creation.
“The meddling by the Obama administration in trying to block this legally permitted project—and I stress legally permitted—has encouraged civil disobedience, it’s threatened the safety of local residents, it’s placed an onerous financial burden on local and state law enforcement with absolutely no offer of federal reimbursement for these increasing costs,” Cramer said. “I certainly hope that we can get the Trump administration to provide some relief on the law enforcement front.”
Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, said Trump’s approval of DAPL and Keystone XL provides needed infrastructure to move the U.S. toward greater energy and national security.
“For too long, the Obama administration had moved the goal posts for legal projects, injecting uncertainty into our state and national economy,” Ness said. “Projects that were thoroughly vetted by multiple state agencies were held hostage by a small but vocal minority. But now, the North American energy renaissance can continue.”
Before signing the Keystone XL memorandum, Trump said, “We’re going to renegotiate some of the terms and—if they’d like—we’ll see if they can get that pipeline built.”
Late in 2015, Pres. Barack Obama rejected a permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline after his administration spent seven years reviewing the project. The pipeline would run from Alberta, Canada, to the U.S. Gulf Coast, transporting 830,000 barrels of oil per day, including up to 100,000 barrels from the Bakken.
Cramer said Trump’s effort to revive the Keystone XL project holds the promise of new jobs and North American energy security. “And,” he continued, “as co-chairman of the House Northern Border Caucus, I’m particularly pleased that the Keystone XL pipeline offers the opportunity to do business with our long-time ally and oldest trading partner, Canada.”
Trip Van Noppen, president of Earthjustice—an environmental organization representing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in court proceedings—said he was “shocked and dismayed” by Trump’s actions on the pipelines “because it puts water for millions at risk.” He called the president’s action “legally questionable, at best,” and added, “We will see his administration in court.”
Craig Stevens, spokesman for the Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now (MAIN) Coalition, said DAPL is more than 95 percent complete.
“We are hopeful and optimistic that President Trump will issue the final easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline and allow Keystone to move forward,” he said. “It will not only be a positive development for these two projects but also for our nation's resource development and energy infrastructure as a whole.”
The impact on an estimated several hundred protesters remaining in camps on Corps of Engineers property north of the Standing Rock reservation is unclear. Chase Iron Eyes, who ran unsuccessfully last November as a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, has called for the protests to continue.
However, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council last week passed a resolution asking for the protesters to leave so that the camp sites could be cleaned up before spring flooding expected at the confluence of the Missouri and Cannon Ball rivers. A tribal district also passed a resolution denying the establishment of a temporary camp on the reservation near the town of Cannon Ball.
Garland Erbele, North Dakota’s state engineer, is concerned that the flooding expected in March—combined with waste and debris from the camps—will pollute the Missouri River downstream.
“We’ve had several thousand people at the campsite at the Cannon Ball River for upwards of six or more months, he said. “All this stuff is going to get washed down into the Missouri River and we don’t know what things we’ve got there. If you’re really trying to protect the water, it’s imperative that we get that stuff cleaned up before we see a flood.”
Retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. James “Spider” Marks said it’s up to the Secretary of the Army—not the Corps of Engineers district commander in Omaha—to decide what will happen to those who have been allowed to camp illegally on Corps land.
“They clearly are in violation of federal law, but the Secretary of the Army has said it’s not a problem,” he explained. “The laws have been overlooked or at least pushed to the side.”
Trump also signed an executive order to expedite environmental reviews and approvals for high-priority infrastructure. The policy is intended to “streamline and expedite” reviews and approvals for all infrastructure projects, especially those for the U.S. electric grid and telecommunications system, as well as upgrades and repairs for ports, airports, pipelines, bridges and highways.
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