Donald Trump, conflicts of interest and the Dakota Access Pipeline are all topics that may have sparked conversations at this past month’s dinner table; and whether or not they went well paired with mom’s meatloaf, all three factors will play a role in forming the Trump administration’s future policies on oil and gas pipelines.
Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline has been completed up until Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir in North Dakota. The next segment of the pipeline’s proposed route would run under the lake and sit about half a mile from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.
Opposition led by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, hundreds of other Native American tribes, and thousands more protestors (who prefer to be called “protectors”) claims the construction of this pipeline would disturb sacred land and potentially contaminate the Standing Rock Sioux’s drinking water.
Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the pipeline, claims there will be economic benefit from the project, which would deliver crude oil 1,172 miles from North Dakota to Illinois.
On Sunday, December 4, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) denied a permit allowing the construction of DAPL to continue in its current location.
Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Army’s assistant secretary for civil works, acknowledged protectors concerns and stated, “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.”
The USACE’s plan to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement with full public input and analysis represents a major win for protectors, but the future of the project is still uncertain in the face of a Trump presidency.
Donald Trump has said that he supports the Dakota Access Pipeline, and at one point owned between $500,000 to $1 million in Energy Transfer Partners stock.
Trump has since sold his stakes in the company, but not without receiving thousands of dollars from Energy Transfer Partners and its CEO, Kelcy Warren, in campaign expenditures to PACS, individual campaigns, and the GOP.
Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II stated he hoped the Donald Trump administration would “respect [USACE’s] decision and understand the complex process that led us to this point.”
According to Robert Rapier, a contributor for Forbes, one area where Trump’s policies may have an immediate impact on energy is the midstream oil and gas business.
The midstream business in the United States is largely made up of pipelines like DAPL that move oil and gas from the production site to processing plants and storage facilities.
One may turn to Trump’s statements about the Keystone XL Pipeline to discern his stance on the transportation of oil and gas as a whole.
Trump has said that approving the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline will be a priority during his first 100 days in office.
The Obama administration denied the construction permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline via executive order early last month, but it would not be difficult for Trump to green light the project yet again – a move TransCanada, the company building the pipeline, hopes to see from the new administration.
One thing is for certain about the movements against these pipelines – the widespread opposition has given the cause a good deal of exposure.
This attention will likely lend its support to other movements blocking future pipelines and opposing other fossil fuel projects.
In reference to the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline, Executive Director of the Sierra Club Michael Brune says, “These last two pipes are symbols for a growing movement around the country. We’re expecting that the opposition to these pipelines will grow under a less friendly administration in the White House.”
Environmental groups and activists are nervous about the future of the environment under a Trump presidency, but those advocating against the Dakota Access Pipeline hope that Trump will choose to approach the situation cautiously in order to avoid potential conflicts of interest.
Regardless, the protectors at Standing Rock are feeling victorious in the wake of USACE’s announcement, but acknowledge that while this is a major step in their fight, they cannot let their guard down as Donald Trump’s presidency ushers in the unknown.
(Analysis and Commentary by Eliza Edich)