Trump's revival of Keystone XL, Dakota Access pipelines is irresponsible and dangerous

A camp at Standing Rock, housing Dakota Access pipeline protesters.


Credit: Joe Brusky, flickr.

Revival of pipelines previously halted by President Obama suggests the Trump administration's agenda will be right off the oil and gas industry's wish list.

With no regard for climate change impacts, damage to land and water or Native American sovereignty, President Trump is fulfilling his campaign promise to champion fossil fuel development--and tearing down some of President Obama's most significant environmental decisions. 

“I’m disappointed to see President Trump move forward with these pipelines, fulfilling industry's wish list over the objection of native nations, local communities, and millions of concerned Americans," said Wilderness Society President Jamie Williams in a statement

The Keystone XL pipeline, pushed by pro-fossil fuel politicians for years, would stretch from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, carving up thousands of miles land in its path to move oil mostly slated for sale overseas. President Obama rejected the project because of its potential to ramp up climate change, which is chiefly driven by fossil fuel emissions.  

The proposed Dakota Access pipeline became national news in 2016 because the project threatens important cultural sites on the Standing Rock Sioux nation’s traditional lands in North Dakota. The Obama administration halted the project and called for a full environmental review of alternative routes in late 2016.  

Sacred Stone Camp on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota, site of protests against the Dakota Access pipeline. Credit: Joe Brusky, flickr.

"All infrastructure projects have impacts, and we must consider the outcomes when looking at any type of development. This is especially true when considering the cumulative burden we are asking certain communities to shoulder for the sake of expedience," added Williams about the Dakota Access project. "Such is the case with the Dakota Access Pipeline, where the previous administration was correct to halt further action until the sovereign Native nations concerns were heard and respected in search of another route." 

Under President Obama, the rules of fossil fuel development—including on public lands—became more balanced, and the nation took steps to address the monumental challenge of climate change. In the Oval Office for less than a week, President Trump appears to be doing everything he can to put the oil and gas industry back in the driver's seat.  

Pipeline orders continue Trump's awful track record on Native issues 

The Standing Rock situation is no outlier. When it comes to safeguarding sacred lands, the relationship between Native Americans and the federal government has been one characterized for decades by broken promises and one-sided negotiations. Under President Obama, the U.S. began to right some of these wrongs, as illustrated by his Dakota Access decision and a first-of-a-kind directive encouraging agencies to integrate Native American traditions and knowledge in public land management and planning. But Trump's new orders perpetuate the old, ugly tradition. 

President Trump has a long history of impugning and offending Native Americans, ranging from crude ethnic taunts aimed at Sen. Elizabeth Warren, to a series of ads that baselessly connected tribes to organized crime, to a pointless promise to strip Denali of its traditional name (which had been restored by President Obama). More recently, Trump's advisors have proposed policies that alarm some tribal leaders, including privatizing Native American reservations that contain oil, gas and coal reserves. 

The decision to bring Dakota Access back from the dead is both a grave insult to the Standing Rock Sioux and an actual, material threat to their heritage. This is unacceptable. Stay tuned for how to take action.