Trump Moves Pipelines Forward With Executive Orders

In executive orders signed on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017, President Trump followed through on a campaign promise to advance the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and included a move forward on the Dakota Access Pipeline for which Trump announced his approval of its construction in December 2016.

The move by Trump signals a move away from the environmental concerns of the Obama administration and toward the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure. Tuesday’s executive orders also fulfill some of the president’s campaign promises, from the direct mention of getting the Keystone XL pipeline approved to increase the nation’s energy production.

Trump’s executive orders on the two pipeline projects, both of which faced much public opposition, have not yet been released publicly, nor do they state in any detail how the projects will move forward.

The Keystone XL Pipeline Timeline

The Keystone XL Pipeline, first proposed by the TransCanada Corporation in 2008, remained up in the air amid environmental studies, feedback from United States’ citizens to their elected officials, and even a green light for the project’s initiation by the National Energy Board in 2010 – albeit with 22 stipulations. In 2011, the U.S. State Department ordered that the pipeline must be rerouted to avoid an area of environmental concern in Nebraska, to which TransCanada said it would comply.

In 2012, then-President Obama rejected the project, saying an order passed by Congress requiring him to make a decision within 60 days didn’t leave him enough time to adequately consider the potential environmental impact of the new Keystone XL Pipeline route. Ultimately, in February 2015, President Obama vetoed legislation that approved the pipeline’s construction. In November 2015, Obama’s administration rejected a new application from TransCanada to build the Keystone XL Pipeline, effectively quashing the project.

The Keystone XL Pipeline, a $6.1 billion project, will carry tar sands from Canada to the Gulf Coast of the United States, ending in Texas.

The Dakota Access Pipeline Timeline

The Dakota Access Pipeline, a $3.8 billion project, was first proposed in December 2014 when Energy Transfer Partners filed application with the federal government for approval of a nearly 1,200-mile pipeline that would stretch from the Bakken region in North Dakota to refineries in southern Illinois.

ETP’s initial route of the pipeline would have brought the pipeline near the state’s second largest city of Bismarck. Instead, the company settled on a route that was as close as one-half mile to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and would go under Lake Oahe.

In March 2016, Iowa approved the pipeline, the last of the four states who needed to do so for the Dakota Access Pipeline project construction to move forward. In April 2016, opponents of the pipeline established what would be the first of camps for the “water protectors,” as they referred to themselves.

In September 2016, U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg denied the Standing Rock Sioux and the Cheyenne River Sioux their co-lawsuits against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that would have halted construction of the pipeline. The Obama administration acted on that same day, with the Army, the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior together determining that construction of DAPL could not go forward without further review.

On Dec. 4, 2016, the Army Corps of Engineers disallows construction under Lake Oahe, the subject of concern to many of the pipeline’s opponents, and orders that alternate routes be considered.

As recently as Jan. 18, 2017, the Army Corps began a full environmental study of the potential repercussions of pipeline construction under Lake Oahe. Officials estimate the study could take up to two years to complete. ETP, which had filed a request with the U.S. District Court to halt the study received its own rejection from Judge Boasberg.

President Trump’s executive orders signed on January 24 urge the Army Corps of Engineers to expedite, modify or rescind certain actions and studies as allowed by law to move the Dakota Access Pipeline construction to completion.


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