By Nahnda Garlow with CP files
WASHINGTON — The Keystone XL pipeline is alive — maybe.
Trump revived hopes for the dormant project Tuesday. He signed an executive order that could build the Alberta-to-Texas pipeline, the subject of a multi-year saga that cast a long shadow on bilateral relations.
He signed several executive orders related to infrastructure and construction, with the highest-profile one involving the pipeline that, if completed, would carry more than one-fifth of the oil Canada exports to the U.S..
The order invites pipeline-maker TransCanada Corp. to re-submit an application for a permit. It also encourages U.S. federal regulatory agencies to respond the opposite way the Obama administration did: favourably, and quickly, within 60 days.
“(It) directs agencies to approve it without delay,” Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said Tuesday.
“There’s an energy revolution that’s gonna happen in this country. In spite of the bureaucratic and political barriers that have happened in the past, we’re ready to move forward.”
The company issued a statement several hours later confirming it would re-apply: “We are currently preparing the application and intend to do so.”
But it remains far from a done deal. There’s ongoing uncertainty on multiple fronts _ some are anticipated legal and political fights, and others are less-predictable wrinkles introduced Tuesday by the president himself.
Hundreds of environmental and indigenous agencies spoke out against the orders, calling them ‘insane’.
Tom BK Goldtooth, Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network said “These actions by President Trump are insane and extreme, and nothing short of attacks on our ancestral homelands as Indigenous peoples. The actions by the president today demonstrate that this Administration is more than willing to violate federal law that is meant to protect Indigenous rights, human rights, the environment and the overall safety of communities for the benefit of the fossil fuel industry.
Goldtooth said the attacks “will not be ignored, our resistance is stronger now than ever before and we are prepared to push back at any reckless decision made by this Administration. If Trump does not pull back from implementing these orders, it will only result in more massive mobilization and civil disobedience on a scale never seen of a newly seated President of the United States.”
Director of environmental protection organization Green for All, Vien Trong, says Trump’s statements are evidence his administration sees people living at the frontline of pollution and environmental devastation as unimportant.
Trong said, “For too long, the fossil fuel industry has targeted low-income communities and communities of color for their dirtiest projects. Polluters have seen the human impact of their pollution as collateral damage and our government continues to let them get away with it. We stand with the Standing Rock and will continue to stand with indigenous people and all vulnerable communities to ensure these pipelines never sees the light of day.”
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe also responded Tuesday and said President Donald Trump’s executive action towards an approval of an easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline risks contaminating tribal and American water supplies while disregarding treaty rights.
The tribe says the “Trump administration’s politically motivated decision violates the law and the Tribe will take legal action to fight it.”
“President Trump is legally required to honor our treaty rights and provide a fair and reasonable pipeline process,” said Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. “Americans know this pipeline was unfairly rerouted towards our nation and without our consent. The existing pipeline route risks infringing on our treaty rights, contaminating our water and the water of 17 million Americans downstream.”
The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers rejected DAPL’s request for an easement late last year, finding that the agency had failed to fully consider the impacts of the pipeline on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The Department of the Army pledged to conduct a full environmental review of the Missouri River crossing and evaluate alternative sites, which would not put the Tribe at risk of an oil spill. However, that environmental review would be circumvented under today’s Executive Order, allowing the project to immediately resume construction.
Trump’s press secretary said on Monday that Trump intended to approve the easement with an aim towards job creation. But tribal leaders note the bulk of pipeline jobs are in pipeline construction. The pipeline only creates a total of 15 permanent jobs in North Dakota. A reroute would protect the Tribe’s water and create hundreds of jobs, Archambault said.
Standing Rock said it’s not a matter of if, but when DAPL will leak. Sunoco, one of the American companies operating DAPL, has a poor record on pipeline safety and spill prevention. Data from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, show operators have reported about 200 crude oil spills per year, on average. More than 176,000 gallons of oil spilled in western North Dakota last month alone.
Archambault said Trump’s decision appears to be a political payback. “By granting the easement, Trump is risking our treaty rights and water supply to benefit his wealthy contributors and friends at DAPL,” he said. “We are not opposed to energy independence. We are opposed to reckless and politically motivated development projects, like DAPL, that ignore our treaty rights and risk our water. Creating a second Flint does not make America great again.”
Jane Kleeb, a political activist who initially organized Nebraska farmers against the project, listed a half-dozen remaining obstacles, including: a constitutional battle over the state’s pipeline law, a new permitting process in Nebraska, and potential protests and legal actions by indigenous peoples in South Dakota.
“It’s absolutely disgusting that Donald Trump is now going to use eminent domain for private gain against American farmers for a foreign pipeline,” Kleeb said.
“(He) wants to build a wall to protect America from Mexico — and yet here he is saying that any foreign country can now pierce our border with a pipeline without any federal review.”
Within hours came word of a protest planned for later Tuesday outside the White House, a clear foreshadowing of the political fight that looms.
An organizer of the first national protests, Bill McKibben, explained in a 2015 interview why he fought to stop the pipeline: To complicate development of the oilsands, in the hope of speeding up the global shift to clean energy.
“We can’t bankrupt the fossil-fuel industry,” McKibben said at the time. “But we can begin to politically bankrupt them _ and we’re trying.”