Oil Pipeline Plans Revived By Executive Order

U.S. President Donald Trump has signed two executive orders to revive construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines. The pipelines are designed to be a quicker route for crude oil to move from Canada and North Dakota to U.S. Gulf Coast refiners. It is not clear exactly how the orders will move the projects forward.

Protesters had rallied for months against the Dakota Access Pipeline route beneath a lake near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. Opponents claimed that the project threatened water resources and sacred Native American sites. Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock tribe said, “Americans know this pipeline was unfairly rerouted towards our nation and without our consent.”

Trump indicated he supported completion of the Dakota pipeline before taking office. Most of the pipeline’s 1,172 miles were completed by the summer of 2016. Only a small section under Lake Oahe remains to be completed.

Shares of Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the Dakota pipeline, were up 3.7 percent in U.S. trading after the orders were announced. According to financial disclosure forms, Trump owned ETP stock through at least mid-2016 and Kelcy Warren, ETP’s chief executive, donated $100,000 to his campaign.

The North Dakota Petroleum Council expressed their approval for Trump’s order. Ron Ness, the council’s president said, “We think this is a great step forward for energy security in America.” The trade group represents the state’s oil producers who are relying on the Dakota Access pipeline to expand their crude transport options

The Standing Rock statement suggested Trump’s order circumvents the planned environmental assessment announced by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in January. In early December, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers turned down ETP’s request for an easement to tunnel under the nearby Missouri River.

The Keystone XL pipeline idea emerged nearly a decade ago and environmental activists have campaigned against it for more than seven years. Trump claimed during a speech that Keystone XL would create 28,000 jobs. However, a 2014 U.S. State Department environmental study said the project would create 3,900 U.S. construction jobs and just 35 permanent jobs. The pipeline already has all the regulatory approvals it needs in Canada. Canadian Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr said the project would be “very positive for Canada.”

The Building and Construction trades group and the Laborers International Union of North America have been vocal supporters of both pipeline projects. Leaders of the labor unions met with Trump on Monday to discuss the matter. Native American tribes and climate activists have bitterly fought against the projects. Opponents of the pipelines have vowed to fight the decisions through legal action.