DAPL Protest: Native Americans march against the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline set to run less than one mile from the Sioux Tribe Standing Rock Reservation.
[Courtesy of John Duffy]
Four days after being inaugurated, President Donald Trump signed executive orders to remobilize the construction of two major oil pipelines the Obama administration had previously halted.
The orders invited the re-submission of the Keystone XL pipeline project by TransCanada, the company behind the proposal, and an expedited review and approval process from the Army Corps of Engineering for the remaining portion of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).
TransCanada’s proposal, if approved, would permit direct transfer of crude oil from Alberta, Canada into Nebraska, whereas the current route travels to Elm Creek before crossing the border into the U.S.
Meanwhile, the expedited review reopens the environmental assessment over the unfinished portion of the DAPL that would be set to run under the Missouri River, a request that was denied in Dec. 2016 for its proximity to the Standing Rock Reservation.
It is too early to know whether these projects will come to fruition but so far the government under Justin Trudeau, Canada’s Prime Minister, has welcomed the revival of the Keystone project with enthusiasm.
Proponents against the pipelines argue that the projects, which initially aimed to lift America’s reliance on gas from the Middle East and lower gas prices, no longer carry a major impact on America’s energy security nor contribute meaningfully to the economy.
President Trump has said that the project would provide 28,000 construction jobs though the State Department has estimated that these will only last during the construction phase, and ultimately yield less than fifty. The State Department also concluded that Keystone’s carbon emissions would be equal to less than one percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.
“Keystone has never been a significant issue from an environmental point of view in substance, only in symbol,” said David L. Goldwyn to the New York Times, an energy market analyst and a former head of the State Department’s energy bureau in the Obama administration.
The issue lies in that the renewed projects move away from the former administration’s aim towards environmentally friendly, renewable energy solutions. And while the emissions would not be significant enough to cause devastating changes to the environment, the pipelines could impact local communities, the water supplies, and cultural heritage sites.
“…moving forward with this project would significantly undermine our ability to continue leading the world in combating climate change,” wrote former Secretary of State John Kerry, who denied TransCanada of a presidential permit in Nov. 2015.
According to Bruce Huber, an associate professor of law at the University of Notre Dame who specializes in environmental, natural resources and energy law, the projects will still have to face several challenges.
TransCanada’s Keystone project requires state approval and landowners would likely resume the legal battles that initially impacted its construction and led to the withdrawal of their application from the state’s Public Service Commission in Nov. 2015.
In like manner, if the Army Corps of Engineering approves the DAPL, there will likely be lawsuits regarding treaty rights, something which the Sioux Tribe of the Standing Rock Reservation has already stated it will do.
Information from the New York Times, NPR and CNBC was used in this article.