Contention Follows Executive Order Approving Pipelines

Jan 26, 2017

Credit Chynna Lockett

President Donald Trump’s executive order approving two pipelines has sparked both positive and negative reactions across the country. The decision comes while hundreds of campers remain in North Dakota protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order approving the Keystone X-L and Dakota Access Pipelines. Both projects were rejected by former President Barak Obama. Trump’s decision allows the Keystone XL to cross the border between Canada and the United States. There are still some issues to work out with state permits before construction can begin. Craig Stevens is the spokesman for the Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now. He says Keystone XL may face some difficulties ahead.

“There are literally hundreds of miles yet to be done. The construction was actually stopped once president Obama and Secretary Clinton decided not to issue the requisite permits for the pipeline to cross from Canada into the United States. So it still has to go through a number of states. And one of the issues they’re going to have is significant protests in Nebraska. Ultimately, I’m guessing that TransCanada and its partners will be able to get this cited and constructed but the Keystone Pipeline has a much longer process ahead of it.”

The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission has already granted approval for Keystone XL to cross through the state. There are 78 conditions and sub-conditions for TransCanada to follow.

Chas Jewett is a Rapid City activist who has opposed Keystone XL since 2008.

“You know I don’t think this is a surprise at all. I knew that this was going to happen. There was some language in the executive order that said some things needed to be negotiated still, so there’s some, I think, things that we still have to figure out. And it seems to me though that because Keystone was stopped because of the permit from the Department of States, that still needs to happed. I mean just because it’s an executive order, I don’t think that supersedes legal requirements. It’s legally required for any pipeline that crosses an international boarder to get permit from the Department of States.”

Jewett also opposes the Dakota Access Pipeline or DAPL.  The protest is centered in North Dakota where thousands of Campers started gathering last summer. Jewett fears that potential oil spills could affect the reservation’s drinking water. 

“The Standing Rock and the Cheyanne River Sioux Tribes get their water right below there. It’s still just so amazing to me that this pipeline company can just bypass the city of Bismarck but then put it right in front of our people. We don’t need oil to live but we sure need water.”

Proponents say pipelines are the safest way to transport oil. Brigham McCown is the former Administrator of the Federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

“You know there are half a dozen pipelines crossing the Missouri River upstream of the area already. And we have hundreds of thousands of water crossings. I can’t say there won’t ever be a spill but I can say if you want to look at the probabilities if you want to take a look at the potentials, it is far safer to use a pipeline. And not just any pipeline, but a brand new pipeline. Quite frankly a lot of the pipelines in our country and some of those that do spill are 50-75 years old. And that’s a consequence of not being able to build new pipelines. You see that when you see an old road bridge but you really don’t see that when you see pipelines underground. So it’s really important to update this infrastructure.”

Many against D.A.P.L. believe the pipeline is not worth the risk. Mark Tilsen has also been protesting in North Dakota. He says now he plans on taking more action to sway government officials to oppose the pipeline.

“Right now, water protectors look like a bunch of radicals. But the very fact of the matter is very simple. We’re just trying to literally protect and defend the water supply that the state needs to survive. What it looks like is putting pressure on elected officials and government officials who can then turn around and make larger statements standing in opposition to this. You have to create a groundswell of political support that gives political cover and pressure to our elected officials.”

Tilsen says he thinks protesters will continue to go to the North Dakota and won’t leave anytime soon. But the Standing Rock Tribal Council no longer supports protesters on private land. The Army Corps of Engineers recently announced it is gathering information on the environmental impact of the Dakota Access Pipeline on Army Corps land.