WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump signed two orders on Tuesday, Jan. 24, to move forward with construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, rolling back key Obama administration environmental policies in favor of expanding energy infrastructure.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, in a statement, said the $3.8 billion project would contaminate U.S. and tribal water supply, and that it intends to take legal action against the decision. Separately, a lawyer for the tribe said the action was being done "hastily and irresponsibly."
Trump campaigned on promises to increase domestic energy industry production and before taking office indicated he supported completion of the Dakota pipeline and revival of the Keystone XL project.
But a restart of the projects would mark a defeat for Native American tribes affected by the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline. Protesters had rallied for months against plans to route the $3.8 billion pipeline beneath a lake near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, saying it threatened water resources and sacred Native American sites.
In a statement, the Standing Rock Sioux said they would fight the decision.
"Americans know this pipeline was unfairly rerouted towards our nation and without our consent. The existing pipeline route risks infringing on our treaty rights, contaminating our water and the water of 17 million Americans downstream," said Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock tribe.
Trump also signed an action to expedite environmental review and approval of high-priority infrastructure projects that he hopes to get moving as part of his drive to rebuild U.S. airports, roads and bridges.
Trump told reporters that "we are going to renegotiate some of the terms" of the Keystone XL project. "And if they like we will see if we can get that pipeline built - a lot of jobs, 28,000 jobs, great construction jobs."
He said the Dakota pipeline would be "subject to terms and conditions negotiated by us."
Trump said his order on pipelines "will put a lot of steelworkers back to work."
"We are very insistent that if we are going to build pipelines in the United States, the pipes should be built in the United States," he said.
U.S. Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) said in a statement: “We made a strong case with the new administration for approving an easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline project without delay. The company has complied with all federal and state requirements and should be allowed to complete the project. Today, the Trump administration followed the law and reversed the Obama administration’s decision to delay the project.”
Environmental activists broadly opposed the Keystone XL pipeline and campaigned against it for more than seven years.
“President Trump’s action today getting the Keystone XL Pipeline back on track signals that our nation will begin to build the kind of energy infrastructure we need, now and into the future,” Hoeven said. “This project is not only about energy, but also about jobs, economic growth and making America stronger and safer by reducing our dependence on Middle Eastern oil.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in January said it would begin an environmental assessment that could delay the Dakota project further. It was not clear if Trump’s order supersedes that move.
“Today’s executive order hopefully provides a step forward that is needed for those impacted by the long delays around the Dakota Access pipeline,” U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) said in a statement. “For too long, inaction or indecision paved the way even after the courts already stated twice that the Corps followed the required process in considering the permit. Safety for everyone involved – law enforcement officers, residents, landowners, tribal members, and protesters -- continues to remain my top priority. Just as Chairman (David) Archambault, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council, and Governor (Doug) Burgum have said, protesters must leave the camp north of the Cannonball River before potentially dangerous flooding happens this spring – and as early as March – since the camp sits in a floodplain, and failing to do so could put the safety of both protesters and law enforcement at risk.”
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe won a key victory when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in early December turned down Energy Transfer Partners' request for an easement to tunnel under the nearby Missouri River. Standing Rock officials were not immediately available for comment on Tuesday.
“Today’s decision takes us one step closer to a time when life can return to normal for the people who live and work in the pipeline area,” Hoeven said of the Dakota Access Pipeline. “To further that end, we have also asked for additional federal law enforcement resources and personnel to maintain peace and protect people and property.
Shares of ETP, the company building the 450,000 barrel-a-day Dakota line, rose 3.5 percent in U.S. trading.
Oil producers in North Dakota's Bakken region would likely benefit from the ability to move oil more quickly to the U.S. Gulf Coast by way of the 1,172-mile pipeline.
The North Dakota Petroleum Council, the trade group for the state's oil producers who are relying on Dakota Access to expand their crude transport options, cheered Trump's order.
"We think this is a great step forward for energy security in America," said Ron Ness, the council's president.
Most of the Dakota pipeline was completed by the summer of 2016, except for a small section under Lake Oahe, a reservoir that forms part of the river.
Trump on Monday met with leaders of labor unions, including the Building and Construction trades group and the Laborers International Union of North America, who have been vocal supporters of both pipeline projects.
Both groups had endorsed Trump rival Hillary Clinton in the 2016 U.S. election, but disagreed with her opposition to the Keystone pipeline.
Trump owned ETP stock through at least mid-2016, according to financial disclosure forms, and ETP's chief executive, Kelcy Warren, donated $100,000 to his campaign. U.S. Energy Secretary nominee Rick Perry was until recently on ETP's board.
Former President Barack Obama rejected Transcanada Corp's Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would bring Canadian crude from Alberta into the U.S. Gulf, in 2015 after environmentalists campaigned against the project for more than seven years. Transcanada did not immediate respond to a request for comment.
Transcanada shares last traded up 2.4 percent on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Check back for updates to this developing story.