- In the bitter political battle over energy and natural resources, Dakota Access has become a successor to the Keystone XL pipeline, which President Barack Obama thwarted.
- After the U.S. Army Corps’ announcement on Sunday, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) issued a blistering statement that called Obama “lawless” and all but promised that Trump would ride into Washington next month and toss the paper on which the decision was written into the Potomac River.
- Trump has been an investor in Energy Transfer Partners, the project’s developer, and his May financial disclosure said he has investments with Phillips 66, which owns a quarter of the pipe.
The outgoing Obama Administration delivered one more gift to green groups on Sunday when the Army Corps of Engineers blocked construction of a disputed segment of the Dakota Access Pipeline — but the decision is likely to be reversed when President-elect Donald Trump takes office next month.
In the bitter political battle over energy and natural resources, Dakota Access has become a successor to the Keystone XL pipeline, which President Barack Obama thwarted — and, like its predecessor, is a flashpoint for green groups who oppose fossil fuel infrastructure projects in the name of combating climate change. But Dakota Access is as much a symbol for Republicans bent on promoting fossil fuel interests and undoing much of what they see as the Obama administration’s regulatory overreach.
After the U.S. Army Corps’ announcement on Sunday, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) — an early Trump supporter and a contender to be named Energy secretary — issued a blistering statement that called Obama “lawless” and all but promised that Trump would ride into Washington next month and toss the paper on which the decision was written into the Potomac River.
“I hoped even a lawless president wouldn’t continue to ignore the rule of law,” Cramer said in a statement. “In my conversation with Assistant Secretary of the Army Jo-Ellen Darcy today, she was unable to give any legal reasons for the decision and could not answer any questions about rerouting the pipeline.
“I’m encouraged we will restore law and order next month, when we get a President who will not thumb his nose at the rule of law,” Cramer added.
Opposition to Dakota Access has been led by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which charges that the North-Dakota-to-Illinois pipeline could contaminate its water supply. The tribe’s land ends about half a mile from the disputed part of the route. The pipeline, which had been approved by the Army Corps, is over 70 percent complete, but the fight against it has focused on a federal easement needed to allow the pipe to run beneath Lake Oahe, in central North Dakota.
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In a statement Sunday, Darcy rejected the easement and indicated further study was needed to consider alternate routes.
“Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it’s clear that there’s more work to do,” Darcy said. “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.”
The 1,172-mile project is intended to cross four states and carry up to 570,000 barrels a day of North Dakota fracked crude. President-elect Trump has indicated his support for the pipeline, even as he tried to turn away charges that he is influenced by his own investment in the project.
The Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now, a coalition of agriculture, labor, and business interests, sounded a similar theme to Congressman Cramer.
“President Obama’s decision not to issue the final easement is a rejection of the entire regulatory and judicial system, as well as the scores of Army Corps of Engineers and civil servants who toiled for more than 800 days to ensure the process was followed correctly, in accordance with the law,” MAIN spokesman Craig Stevens said in a statement.
“With President-elect Trump set to take office in just a few weeks, we are hopeful that this is not the final word on the Dakota Access Pipeline.”
The Obama administration has come down in favor of opponents of the $3.7 billion project multiple times. At the same time, Standing Rock Sioux along with green activists have formed an encampment near the disputed section and protested the project for months — demonstrations that have occasionally turned violent and drawn a crackdown from local law enforcement.
In October, a judge shot down a legal request for a stay of construction, but within hours the Departments of the Interior and Justice, along with the Army Corps, issued a stop-work order for part of the pipeline. Then, on Nov. 14, the Army Corps left in place its hold so that it could conduct more analysis and consultation with the Standing Rock tribe — a move presumed by many observers, including Cramer — to be the administration’s last word on the project. But Sunday’s decision surprised and delighted protesters on the ground, leading to reports of celebration.
Groups like the Bold Alliance, which played a central role in pressuring Obama to block the Keystone XL pipeline last year, were also ecstatic. “The unlikely alliances across our country are unified to protect the land and water from these risky and unnecessary pipelines,” said Jane Kleeb, president of the Bold Alliance. “The Great Sioux Nation put out the unifying call ‘Water is Life’ and the country answered.”
But the celebrations may be short-lived, as Trump seems likely to reverse the Army Corps and approve the easement for the lake crossing. Talking points that emerged from the Trump camp on Friday said the president-elect would “cut the red tape” that blocked key energy projects.
Trump has been an investor in Energy Transfer Partners, the project’s developer, and his May financial disclosure said he has investments with Phillips 66, which owns a quarter of the pipe. The talking points also said: “His support for this project has nothing to do with his personal investments and everything to do with promoting policies that benefit all Americans.”