With environmentalists already furious at Donald Trump for his recent executive orders to reincarnate the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines, their anger is set to overflow following news that the completion of the latter may be just a matter of months, if not weeks.
As Reuters reports, while the 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline is nearly complete, just one "hotly contested" section under North Dakota's Lake Oahe that's been the topic of massive protests, remains unbuilt. The tribe has been concerned that digging the pipeline under a section of the Missouri River would affect the area's drinking water as well as the supply for 17 million Americans living downstream. A final easement is required for Dakota Access to cross beneath Lake Oahe.
But on Tuesday evening, the Army has allowed the final section to also be completed.
Acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer "has directed the Army Corps of Engineers to proceed with the easement needed to complete the Dakota Access Pipeline," Sen. John Hoeven said in a statement Tuesday cited by CNN. The North Dakota Republican said he spoke with VP Mike Pense and Robert Speer on Tuesday. “The secretary said it will be approved in days, not weeks,” Hoeven spokesman Don Canton said in a separate e- mail.
While the official easement from the Army Corps has not been released, Hoeven and Rep. Kevin Cramer praised Speer's decision, which will pave the way for the final phase of the controversial $3.7 billion project. Then, moments ago Bloomberg reported that the Army said it has begun steps to review the Dakota Pipeline request.
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which has vocally opposed the project, responded that Hoeven's announcement is premature and maintains that further environmental review is needed for the pipeline. Cramer, also a North Dakota Republican, said he received word that the US Army Corps will grant final approval and that congressional notification of the decision was "imminent." Cramer praised President Donald Trump as a "man of action" after Trump signed executive actions last week to advance approval of the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines. The Obama administration blocked both projects amid vociferous opposition.
As reported here on various occasions in late 2016, the Standing Rock tribe and its various environmental allies protested in North Dakota for months, standing in the path of the pipeline during peaceful demonstrations and clashes that turned violent. In December, protesters celebrated a temporary victory when the Army said it would not -- for the time being -- allow the pipeline to cross under the lake, calling for an official environmental impact statement, a months-long process that would allow the public to weigh in.
The tribe vowed to "vigorously pursue legal action" if the Trump administration cuts off the environmental review and grants the easement.
"To abandon the (environmental impact statement) would amount to a wholly unexplained and arbitrary change based on the President's personal views and, potentially, personal investments," the tribe said in a statement Tuesday.
The Indigenous Environmental Network, a leading tribal organization dedicated to blocking further construction of the project, said Tuesday: "Make no mistake: we are prepared to mobilize and resist this brazen power grab."
Meanwhile, as the climax over DAPL approaches, there is also the fate of the "other" controversial pipeline. Like Dakota Access, the Keystone XL Pipeline had been the subject of environmental concern from activists, residents and indigenous tribes who worried that the pipeline would pollute as many as 2,500 aquifers. But pipeline supporters touted the jobs it would create and other economic benefits.
The $8 billion Keystone XL Pipeline was proposed to stretch nearly 1,200 miles across six states, shuttling carbon-heavy petroleum from Canada to the Gulf Coast. In November 2015, Obama nixed the proposed pipeline, virtually ending the fight over the project that had gone on for much of his presidency. But Trump's executive actions on both pipelines signal how his administration will take a drastically different approach to energy and environmental issues.
The environmental push back to both pipeline is expected to be furious. As we reported last week, "greens" have already threatened Trump with substantial pushback: “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,” said Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club. He added that "President Trump will live to regret his actions this morning," said Michael Brune of the Sierra Club, promising "a wall of resistance the likes of which he never imagined."
The standoff between Trump and his environmental critics will likely soon become one of the major challenges in the early days of his presidency.