President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to advance the embattled Dakota Access Pipeline, prompting the Standing Rock Sioux tribe to accuse the president of disregarding treaty rights.
The action can’t be overturned by Congress, although the tribe is planning legal action, and camp leaders called for “mass civil disobedience” in response. Trump’s orders are sparking intense reaction on social media. Al-Jazeera and AP reported that Trump also used executive order to advance the Keystone XL pipeline.
The new Trump administration was not expected to be favorable to the No DAPL movement because of his business background, his choice of Rick Perry as energy secretary, and his previous investments in the company creating the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Obama administration had made some moves regarded as partial victories by pipeline opponents, who call themselves Water Protectors.
The Dakota Access Pipeline, a four-state multi-billion dollar oil pipeline has sparked months of intense clashes between Native American protesters and their allies in North Dakota. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe says the pipeline will harm water supplies and destroy cultural heritage sites; the pipeline’s supporters say it will create jobs and reduce dependence on foreign oil. A lawyer for the Standing Rock tribe said Trump’s DAPL order was done “hastily and irresponsibly.” The Sierra Club’s executive director told 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.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Executive Orders Allow Both Pipelines to Go Forward
According to NBC News, the executive orders the new president signed “will make it easier for TransCanada to construct the Keystone XL pipeline and for Energy Transfer Partners to build the final uncompleted portion of the Dakota Access Pipeline.”
Reuters reported that Trump’s actions will “accelerate” both pipeline projects. On DAPL, Trump said, according to Reuters, that the pipeline “will be subject to terms and conditions negotiated by us” and would put steelworkers back to work. He was adamant that pipelines should be built in the United States, reported Reuters.
“We’ll see if we can get that pipeline built,” Trump said as he signed the order, according to the Daily Beast. Trump indicated that both pipelines could be renegotiated; “Another action signed Tuesday calls for U.S. steel to be used if the pipelines are built,” reported The Huffington Post.
On January 23, reported Reuters, Trump “met with leaders of labor unions, including the Building and Construction trades group and the Laborers International Union of North America, who have been vocal supporters of both pipeline projects.” Trump has also signed executive orders to limit provisions of Obamacare and ban international groups that perform or lobby on abortion from getting federal funding.
Executive orders allow presidents to bypass Congress; they have the force of law. Of any president, FDR signed by far the most executive orders. One of those required the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
2. Trump Had Investments in the Company Creating the Pipeline
Donald Trump, as a businessman, had investments in Energy Transfer Partners, the Texas company building the pipeline. According to CNBC, in December, he sold his entire stake in the company as ownership in it could be perceived as a conflict of interest.
CNBC reported that Energy Transfer Partners’ owner, Kelcy Warren, “gave $100,000 to Trump’s joint fundraising effort with the Republican Party.” According to The Washington Post, in 2015, Trump’s share in the company was “between $500,000 and $1 million.”
Trump also owned “between $100,000 and $250,000 in Phillips 66, which has a one-quarter share of Dakota Access,” CBS News reported. In another bad sign for the pipeline’s opponents, Trump chose former Texas Governor Rick Perry as his energy secretary. Perry sat on the board of Energy Transfer Partners.
3. The Standing Rock Tribe Will Go to Court Seeking to Invalidate the Executive Order & Camp Leaders Want ‘Mass Civil Disobedience’
According to Reuters, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe will take legal action against the executive order. Before Trump’s action, the tribe had passed a resolution calling for a cessation of the protest camps, saying they were straining the tribe’s resources and the tribe wanted to use the legal system to advance its cause. In a statement, the tribe accused Trump of disregarding treaty rights and violating the law through his executive order on DAPL.
CNBC reported that Congress can not overturn an executive order, and the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld all but two in U.S. history.
Protest camp leaders released a statement calling for mass civil disobedience, saying, “the heart of Standing Rock beats everywhere.” They also called on people to divest from any banks helping fund the pipeline. In a Monday January 23 press conference, Trump’s spokesman, Sean Spicer, had strongly hinted that an executive order on DAPL was looming.
“I’m not going to get in front of the President’s executive actions,” said Spicer. “But I will tell you that areas like the Dakota and Keystone pipeline are areas that we can increase jobs, increase economic growth, and tap into America’s energy supply. That’s something that he’s been very clear about.”
Spicer brought up the pipeline controversy on January 24, framing Trump’s actions as being about job creation.
4. People Protested DAPL During Trump’s Inauguration Week & Months of Protests Have Led to Dramatic Clashes
Major Donald Trump protests erupted in Washington D.C. before, during, and after Trump’s inauguration. Among the protesters were many people carrying signs protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. DAPL protest signs also showed up at many of the women’s marches held the day after Trump’s inauguration. Upset DAPL opponents took to Twitter on January 24 to urge continued protest and criticize Trump.
The months of protests at Standing Rock have provoked dramatic scenes, including pictures of security guards for the oil company using snarling dogs against Water Protectors.
5. President Obama Had Tried to Halt Both Projects to Differing Degrees
According to Al-Jazeera, “Former President Barack Obama rejected Transcanada Corp’s Keystone XL oil pipeline in November 2015 after environmentalists campaigned against the project for more than seven years.”
The Keystone company would need to reapply. As for DAPL, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had, in December, declined to “grant the final permit needed for the Dakota Access Pipeline to be completed. Instead, officials said, an environmental impact review will be conducted,” reported Alternet.
The Keystone pipeline would “run from Canada to U.S. refineries in the Gulf Coast. The U.S. government needed to approve the pipeline because it crossed the border,” reported the Chicago Tribune. DAPL would run from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to Illinois.