The Dakota Access Pipeline: Trump’s Executive Order and US Army Approval

by ARIEL HARSINAY

The Dakota Access Pipeline is a $3.7 billion oil transport pipeline that will cross four states. For some, the pipeline will be an economic miracle, and for others, an environmental catastrophe that entails running oil directly under a river, contaminating water supplies, and destroying sacred Native American sites. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved this project and granted permits for it in July of 2016. However, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe sued the Corps under the context that the Dakota Access Pipeline “threatens the Tribe’s environmental and economic well-being and would damage and destroy sites of great historic, religious, and cultural significance to the Tribe.” While the pipeline would mean reducing the US’s foreign dependence on oil, it would also mean the destruction of native prayer and burial sites. There are many arguments over the environmental impacts of the pipeline as well. Supporters of the pipeline claim that it will be more beneficial for the environment since oil won’t be transported by way of rails and trucks. However, opponents of the pipeline argue towards finding more renewable sources of energy and not supporting a pipeline that will add to carbon emissions and climate change. Many individuals are also worried what might happen if the pipeline were to rupture, since it routes directly under the Missouri River. Considering there have already been six instances of pipelines bursting  in 2017 alone, this is a very understandable concern to have.

Prior to the completion of his final term in office, Obama blocked further construction of the pipeline due to environmental concerns. However, merely four days into his presidency, President Trump signed an executive order to revive the plans. In response to environmental concerns, President Trump stated “I am, to a large extent, an environmentalist, I believe in it. But it’s out of control, and we’re going to make it a very short process. And we’re going to either give you your permits, or we’re not going to give you your permits. But you’re going to know very quickly. And generally speaking, we’re going to be giving you your permits.” Trump claims that a major reason for his executive order was that the construction of the pipeline would bring 28,000 new jobs, but the State Department report states that only 3,900 jobs will be created over a year- only 35 being permanent jobs. On February 7th, the US army granted permits for completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, despite the fact that the Standing Rock Sioux tribe lawyers said that approval of the pipeline cannot be legally granted. This permit is called an “easement”, which allows a company to cross private land. This easement gives opponents of the pipeline little time to pursue legal action.

The cherry on top of this entire situation is that Trump owns stocks in the companies that are part of the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. It is clear that an underlying motive of this executive order is that he is personally profiting from it, despite the report that it  “has nothing to do with his personal investments and everything to do with promoting policies that benefit all Americans.” Trump owns between $500,000 and $1 million worth of Energy Transfer Partners shares, which is the lead developer of the Dakota Access Pipeline, as well as at least $100,000 worth of shares of Phillips 66, which owns a quarter of the pipeline.

Because the Trump administration is deciding to fast track the construction of the pipeline, it also means bypassing the further environmental review that was set to be conducted. Trump decided to expedite the construction after calling environmental reviews “incredibly cumbersome, long, horrible permitting” processes and “regulatory burdens”. Large scale projects like this require extensive legal review, and that is what Trump is trying to circumvent.

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe have been protesting through the frigid winter, and have been met with rubber bullets, tear gas, and water hoses in below freezing temperatures. There have already been over 500 arrests. One single night left 17 people hospitalized. We have historically displaced natives since the birth of this nation, and even in 2017 as indigenous people try to fight and protest to protect their homes and water supplies, they are met with dehumanizing and violent means by law enforcement.  One of our country’s biggest shames is our treatment of indigenous peoples, yet we continue to infringe upon their land and exploit them for our own financial gain. President Trump is making it clear that matters such as clean water, Native American rights, and the environment are not among his priorities.