President Obama’s announcement that his Administration was looking into possible “re-routes” for the Dakota Access Pipeline is a deeply troubling, unprecedented step not just for this pipeline project but for all future American infrastructure projects. No private company would spend the resources necessary to build a multi-billion dollar infrastructure project if there was a real risk that the federal government would halt or re-route their project once it was already more than 70% completed and approved by five governmental agencies – both state and federal.
As the nation watches protests over the Dakota Access pipeline escalate and turn violent, Americans are beginning to ask questions.
As cases of theft, trespassing, vandalism and dead and mutilated livestock in the area continue to mount, why is the federal government standing by and allowing this chaos to unfold; and why are they so unconcerned with the impact the protesters are having on local ranchers and their livestock?
The latter question is easy to answer. After successfully navigating the exhaustive federal environmental review process known as NEPA, or the National Environmental Policy Act, the Dakota Access pipeline was approved and moving forward, only to run into the buzzsaw of offensive environmental litigation.
A coalition of 22 groups representing business associations and workers including the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce among others, authored a letter to the Obama Administration that expresses deep concerns over the actions taking place to slow construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The letter received coverage in the Washington DC-based political publications The Hill, Politico, Washington Examiner and E&E.
The letter states details the extensive process and permits received by Dakota Access, and criticizes the Administration for upending the regulatory process and ignoring a federal judge’s opinion. According to the letter, these actions by the Obama Administration will do harm far beyond delaying the construction of the project;
“When your agencies upend or modify the results of a full and fair regulatory process for an infrastructure project, these actions do not merely impact a single company. The industries that manufacture and develop the infrastructure, the labor that builds it, and the American consumers that depend on it all suffer.”
The groups urge the Administration to follow the letter of the law, which was met by the company throughout the review and permitting process, and allow construction to continue so that the infrastructure needs of a 21st century economy can move forward.
A coalition of labor groups is again asking President Obama to allow the Dakota Access Pipeline to proceed without further delay.
In an Oct. 18 letter, the National Infrastructure Alliance urged the White House, along with Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Army Secretary Eric Fanning, and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to grant an easement for the project to cross beneath Lake Oahe.
“We strongly encourage you to stand up for American workers and American infrastructure by reversing course on your Administration’s extralegal action regarding the Dakota Access Pipe Line, which is sending shock waves through the development community and the membership of our unions,” the letter said.
Furthermore, the alliance characterized the Obama administration’s last-minute intervention in the project as “deeply unsettling” and warned that it sets a dangerous precedent for future proposals.
“The intervention by the Departments of Justice, Interior, and the U.S. Army to halt a project for an indefinite period of time, using the leverage that the federal government possesses with regard to its easement on Corps property, is unprecedented and without comparison,” wrote Executive Director Raymond Poupore.
The alliance represents four of the nation’s top construction: the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America; International Union of Operating Engineers; Laborers’ International Union of North America; and International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers.
Earlier this month, two separate coalitions of labor groups and energy supply chain organizations also wrote to Obama in support of Dakota Access and the thousands of men and women currently employed by the project.
The repercussions of the Obama administration’s decision to continue delaying the more than half-completed Dakota Access pipeline would extend well beyond billions in private investment dollars, tens of thousands of lost jobs, and hundreds of millions in denied annual tax revenues. At stake is the fragile nexus between state and federal regulation of the private development they govern. If Dakota Access is denied at this late stage – after having met and exceeded all applicable rules and regulations, and, after having invested huge sums of capital – it would signal an end of the rule of law under this administration.
In a new opinion piece, Jack Rafuse, a former White House energy advisor, made clear that the Obama administration’s decision to continue delaying the Dakota Access Pipeline could greatly limit future private investment in nation’s already crumbling infrastructure. According to Rafuse, a decision to deny the project after it has been largely completed would set a dangerous precedent and signal an end to the rule of law.
Private companies do not spend large amounts of time and money frivolously. They identify a need, conceive a solution, and then establish a goal for attaining it. They study. They plan. They commit to years of regulatory hearings, testimony, proceedings, and detailed reports by the company and by federal, state and local officials. Only after all those steps have been taken do the private companies commit, and with years to go before ultimate clearances are granted, do they commit.
Furthermore, Rafuse outlined the exhaustive 800-plus day review that the project underwent and the hundreds of consultations that took place between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and 55 different Native American tribes.
Although Dakota Access was ultimately green-lighted by the applicable agencies of four separate states as well as the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), it received those approvals only after a painstaking review process that included continuous consultation with Native American tribes, as well as the verification by three independent sources – USACE (which held 389 meetings with 55 tribes), a federal judge, and the North Dakota State Historic Preservation Office (and its Chief Archaeologist, Paul Picha) – that the pipeline’s route near the protest site in North Dakota does not infringe upon any areas of cultural significance.
In addition, Rafuse notes that Dakota Access has already invested more than $1.6 billion in the pipeline and currently supports upwards of 8,000 jobs.
Click here to read Dr. Rafuse’s full piece in Real Clear Energy.
LiUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan sent a letter Thursday pushing back against five senators who earlier in the day urged President Obama to halt construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“On behalf of the 500,000 members of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), I write to express my anger and disappointment with your recent opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline,” O’Sullivan wrote in the two-page letter sent to Sens. Bernie Sanders, Dianne Feinstein, Ben Cardin, Ed Markey, and Patrick Leahy.
“You are willfully sacrificing the livelihoods of more than 1,000 LIUNA members and more than 4,000 Building Trades members working on the project on the basis of misinformation and outright lies.”
O’Sullivan’s stern rebuke echoes a statement released by the MAIN Coalition in response to the latest attempt to politicize an essential energy infrastructure investment. “There is no legitimate reason, whatsoever, for the federal government to request another environmental study for the Dakota Access Pipeline – to do so is nothing more than a ploy to kill the project by unnecessary and undetermined delay,” said MAIN Coalition spokesperson Craig Stevens in a statement.
“The nation is watching this administrative decision: Will the administration respect the rule of law, the regulatory process, and the engineers who did their jobs or will the administration make a decision based on a political preference? If the decision ignores the regulatory process it will have a chilling effect on future private infrastructure development and threaten American jobs.”
Earlier today U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and four other Democratic senators asked President Obama to halt construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline and order that a full environmental review be completed. In a statement, MAIN Coalition spokesperson Craig Stevens challenged the request, noting that the project has already been fully vetted and approved by both the federal government and four state regulatory agencies.
There is no legitimate reason, whatsoever, for the federal government to request another environmental study for the Dakota Access Pipeline – to do so is nothing more than a ploy to kill the project by unnecessary and undetermined delay.
The Dakota Access Pipeline has been fully vetted and approved by four states and the federal government pursuant to dozens of state and federal regulations including environmental regulations. Two federal courts have ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers met its obligations under the law – and in many cases went beyond the letter of the law to meet the spirit and intent of the legislation. Additionally, the Corps and Dakota Access, LLC, met with thousands of concerned citizens and groups over the past two years to ensure the pipeline traversed the safest, most sensible route.
The nation is watching this administrative decision: Will the administration respect the rule of law, the regulatory process, and the engineers who did their jobs or will the administration make a decision based on a political preference? If the decision ignores the regulatory process it will have a chilling effect on future private infrastructure development and threaten American jobs.
The MAIN Coalition remains hopeful that administrative actions and judicial decisions will be based on the facts, science, engineering, and the rule of law that leads to the completion and operation of the Dakota Access Pipeline without further delay.
MAIN Coalition spokesman Craig Stevens put facts over fiction in a new opinion piece discussing the political debate surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline. Writing in the Washington Examiner, Stevens discusses how protesters from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have tried and failed stop the landmark infrastructure project under the pretense of false, overwhelming debunked claims.
“In the case of construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline, the opposition believes they are indeed entitled to their own facts despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. As they lost on those facts and the law, opponents turned to political allies to stop a project that was duly approved and is nearing completion,” Stevens wrote.
He goes on to note that activists have now resorted to backdoor political meandering to achieve a goal that both the facts and the law have proven wrong.
“Unable to persuade regulators or the courts to stop the pipeline, opponents have turned to friends in high places. This is exactly the sort of insider political trading that so many Americans of all political persuasions are sick of seeing. Americans are losing faith in our political institutions precisely because they think the powerful and well-connected use their influence to bypass procedures the rest of us have to follow.”
Stevens concludes with the sobering reality, that if not stopped, reckless political posturing will have far-reaching consequences.
“A political intervention now will do more than squander $2.5 billion, lay off thousands of workers and block access to an important supply of domestic energy. It will further undermine faith in the American political process at a time when that faith is at historic lows. Surely it would be best to stop the politics and let the proper legal and regulatory processes work.”
Click here to read Stevens’ full opinion piece.