Protestors, including environmental activists, Native American tribes and veterans, stood their ground for months in an attempt to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) from being built on sacred land near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dako-ta. This group of people endured threat of arrest, water cannons and sub-zero temperatures, but Tuesday the protestors may have found an adversary they can’t conquer—President Donald Trump.
Trump’s executive orders will allow the building of the DAPL that would go through Iowa, and the Keystone XL pipeline that would route into Nebraska, to move forward. Both projects were briefly stopped by the Obama administration.
The move was predictable, Trump did promise to approve the Keystone XL during his campaign, and the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, the company responsible for the DAPL, did donate $100,000 to the Trump Victory Fund. Even his reasoning that the pipelines would create jobs is predictable, but not entirely realistic.
“As with many things Trumpian, there is less here than meets the eye,” Bruce Johansen, a UNO professor and author of multiple publications concerning the environment and Native American issues, said. “First, the main benefit is said to be jobs. Yes, there would be a few construction jobs, but a pipeline adds very few jobs long-term. It is essentially an automated oil-delivery system.”
The claim that the Keystone pipeline would create 28,000 jobs is false. A much more likely estimate would be 16,000, and only a couple hundred of those jobs would be permanent.
Johansen stresses that the negatives far outweigh the positives, and the possible damage to important water supplies would be disastrous.
“The oceans are becoming more acidic, reducing populations of plankton that forms the basis of the ocean food chain,” Johansen said. “This is no Chinese hoax, as Trump seems to believe. The last thing the Earth needs is more oil.”
If the threat of damage to drinking water isn’t enough, there’s also global warming and the disrespect of building on the Lakota tribe’s sacred land to worry about.
Both pipelines would carry crude oil, which would encourage frack-ing and spew large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. All of this is bad timing for a planet that just experienced its hottest year in recorded history.
Proponents of the pipelines may feel anything but optimistic, but the executive actions do not necessarily give builders the authority to begin construction. The order of Keystone XL simply invites TransCanada to reapply for its cross-border permit, and the DAPL order was directed at the Army Corps of Engineers to “take all actions necessary and appropriate” for the building process to begin again. In more specific terms, to disregard the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process.
An EIS is part of the National Environmental Policy Act and is meant to determine if a project’s impacts outweigh all possible benefits. The Army Corps of Engineers takes the information provided and decides whether or not to move forward. If Trump’s action is implemented, the Corps will be encouraged move forward with the DAPL without the safety measure of an EIS.
The executive actions cannot be turned over by Congress, but the Standing Rock tribe and multiple environmental activists are planning legal action.
The executive director of the Sierra Club, an environmental protection agency, said in a statement to The New York Times, “Donald Trump has been in office for four days and he’s already proving to be the dangerous threat to our climate we feared he would be.”
Trump is doing exactly what he said he would during his campaign, and the same people who voted for him are partially responsible for all actions he takes as President of the United States. Unfortunately, it’s the entire world that may have to pay for those.