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Trump's Move On Keystone XL, Dakota Access Outrages Activists

President Trump, accompanied by Vice President Pence and staff, signed multiple documents regarding two major oil pipelines in the U.S.
Evan Vucci
President Trump, accompanied by Vice President Pence and staff, signed multiple documents regarding two major oil pipelines in the U.S.

The Trump administration is pushing forward with plans for two major oil pipelines in the U.S., projects that sparked nationwide demonstrations and legal fights under President Barack Obama.

President Trump signed documents inviting the company behind the Keystone XL pipeline to resubmit a proposal for the project, which the Obama administration rejected in 2015, and instructing the Army to expedite the review and approval process for the section of the Dakota Access Pipeline that hasn't been built.

"We're going to renegotiate some of the terms, and if they'd like, we'll see if they can get the pipeline built," Trump said of the Keystone XL pipeline.

"This not a done deal," Bill McKibben of the group 350.org, which has lobbied against pipelines for years, said in a statement. He called the pipelines "unwise and immoral" because they contribute to climate change.

Trump also signed a document requesting a federal plan to incentivize the use of U.S.-made pipes for pipeline projects.

The lobbying group representing the petroleum industry issued a statement in favor of the policy reversal. A spokesperson for the TransCanada company, which proposed the Keystone XL project, said the company was preparing to resubmit a proposal. Energy Transfer Partners, which is building the nearly completed Dakota Access Pipeline, did not immediately comment.

Both the Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline provoked protests from a diverse group of citizens concerned about the climate impacts and potential environmental contamination from the projects, as well as the safety of their routes across large swaths of the country and the mechanisms by which the federal government approved those routes.

McKibben promised to fight the president's move, saying, "The last time around, TransCanada was so confident they literally mowed the strip where they planned to build the pipeline, before people power stopped them. People will mobilize again."

A portion of the Dakota Access Pipeline is under review by the Army Corps of Engineers, which announced last week that it was gathering information for an environmental assessment of a crossing under the Missouri River in North Dakota — an area that the nearby Standing Rock Sioux tribe says is sacred land.

Demonstrators, sometimes numbering in the thousands, set up several camps on occupied land near the proposed crossing site beginning last summer, in support of the Standing Rock Sioux. The tribe filed a lawsuit against the federal government to block the pipeline, which was retracted earlier this month.

The protests diminished after the Army Corps blocked the final permit in December and announced it would reassess the pipeline route, taking into account concerns about the risk of water contamination and allegations that the tribe was not adequately consulted about a route that violated sacred land.

On Tuesday, the tribe released a statement through the American Civil Liberties Union, promising to take legal action against the federal government.

"Trump's decision to give the go-ahead for the Dakota Access Pipeline is a slap in the face to Native Americans and a blatant disregard for the rights to their land," it stated.

The tribe also addressed the president's stated plan to streamline what he called the "incredibly cumbersome, long, horrible permitting process" for environmental reviews of pipeline and manufacturing projects.

"The Trump administration should allow careful environmental impact analysis to be completed with full and meaningful participation of affected tribes," the Standing Rock Sioux wrote in its statement.

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.

Demonstrators remain camped on the North Dakota prairie in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. They've winterized tents and other structures.
Amy Sisk / Prairie Public Radio
Prairie Public Radio
Demonstrators remain camped on the North Dakota prairie in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. They've winterized tents and other structures.

Amy Sisk of Prairie Public Radio was at the site on Tuesday and reports that demonstrators remain camped on the North Dakota prairie near the site where the Dakota Access Pipeline's slated to cross under the Missouri River. "They're living in winterized tents, tepees and wooden structures, many keeping warm by fireplaces installed inside their makeshift homes," she tells us.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rebecca Hersher (she/her) is a reporter on NPR's Science Desk, where she reports on outbreaks, natural disasters, and environmental and health research. Since coming to NPR in 2011, she has covered the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, embedded with the Afghan army after the American combat mission ended, and reported on floods and hurricanes in the U.S. She's also reported on research about puppies. Before her work on the Science Desk, she was a producer for NPR's Weekend All Things Considered in Los Angeles.
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