A coalition of some of the nation’s top energy supply chain industries and workers has come together to urge President Obama to allow the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) to be completed. In a new letter, leaders of 18 different organizations called on Obama to support infrastructure development, quoting his 2015 State of the Union Address that called for just that.
“21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure ‐‐ modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest internet. Democrats and Republicans used to agree on this,” President Obama said.
Furthermore, the letter notes the extensive permitting process that DAPL underwent as well as the monumental amount of capital the project has already injected into the U.S. economy.
Wednesday’s letter comes just two days after the heads of five trade unions called on Obama to allow the project to move forward, saying that current delays have already resulted in lost jobs and threaten many more.
Five of the nation’s top skilled craft unions are urging the Obama administration to allow the Dakota Access Pipeline project to proceed without further delay.
In a letter to President Obama, the general presidents of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA), United Association (UA), and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) condemned the administration’s eleventh hour decision to halt work on a portion of the $3.8 billion infrastructure project.
“The intervention by the Departments of Justice, Interior, and the U.S. Army to indefinitely halt a project that is more than halfway constructed and has received state and federal approval raises serious concerns about the future of infrastructure development in America, and the livelihoods of our members,” the letter reads.
“We urge you to adhere to the well-established regulatory process for permitting private infrastructure projects and approve the easement for the remaining section of the Dakota Access project without delay.”
According to union leaders, the project delays imposed by the White House have already resulted in lost jobs and threaten many more. “The project is being built with an all-union workforce and workers are earning family-sustaining wages, with family health care and retirement contributions. However, the project delays are already putting members out of work and causing hardships for thousands of families.”
On Friday, September 23, the Department of the Interior, Justice Department, and Army Corps of Engineers released a schedule for upcoming consultations with Native American tribes. Following the announcement MAIN Coalition spokesman Craig Stevens issued the following statement:
The MAIN Coalition agrees that tribal consultations should continue to play an important role in prospective infrastructure development. With regards to the Dakota Access Pipeline, the official and judicial records show the Army Corps of Engineers and the company held at least 389 consultations with 55 Native American tribes as well as several hundred other consultations with interested individuals, groups, and elected officials throughout the course of the permitting process. In part as a result of those consultations, the final path avoids culturally and environmentally sensitive areas.
The process to approve the Dakota Access Pipeline was done correctly; and these new discussions should not impact, retroactively, any ongoing infrastructure project or any infrastructure project that is currently under review for permitting. To do so would have a chilling effect on private infrastructure development, negatively impact our economy, and cost Americans their jobs.
Should the federal or state governments update their regulations moving forward, they should be transparent, consistent, and reasonable so the regulatory process can ameliorate the concerns of our nation’s various constituencies while not stifling America’s economy.
The Obama administration’s decision to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline, despite a go-ahead from a federal judge, was met with across-the-board criticism from energy experts, politicians, and representatives of unionized labor. Their concerns were expressed in an article posted by Fox News yesterday.
Rep. Kevin Cramer, North Dakota’s at-large Representative, called the decision “fundamentally unfair” in a written statement:
“It seems more than a little confusing that moments after a federal judge issued an order stating, among other things, that the Corps of Engineers and the pipeline company did everything the law requires of them and more, the Obama Administration decides to change the rules..”
Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute called for the pipeline’s construction to move forward:
“The administration’s recent attempts to change the rules, in the middle of the game, set a dangerous precedent for our country that could threaten other infrastructure projects like bridges, roads and electricity transmission…”
Sean McGarvey of North America’s Building Trades Unions contended that the President’s decision was a clear example of putting politics above the rule of law:
“We fear that President Obama has now set a dangerous precedent where political considerations can now thwart or delay every single infrastructure project moving forward…”
Brigham McCown, the former acting administrator of the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) raised concern about the impact that the decision could have on other infrastructure projects underway around the country:
“This could bog down or delay every single infrastructure project moving forward (…) I don’t think they even realize the can of worms they’ve opened…”
The Dakota Access Pipeline, once completed, will serve as a vital link to North Dakota’s Bakken shale play, which, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, contains an estimated 7.4 billion barrels of oil.
Activists in the Keep it in the Ground movement are facing another setback following the dismissal by the White House of a petition demanding an end to oil and gas production.
The petition—created earlier this year on the White House’s “We the People” website—asked President Obama to halt “all new drilling, fracking, and mining on public lands and waters” in the United States.
The White House, which responds to any petition receiving at least a 100,000 signatures, largely rebuffed the activist’s demands in an online post. “Even as we move full steam ahead towards cleaner energy, the United States will still need fossil fuels in the near term,” the White House said.
“It’s going to take a very long time before we can wean ourselves from fossil fuels, so I think that to keep it in the ground is naïve, to say we could shift to 100 percent renewables is naïve,” Jewell said. “We really have to have a blend over time, and a transition over time, that recognizes the real complexity of what we’re dealing with.”
The Administration’s response is also in line with Jewell’s comments in terms of its emphasis on energy efficiency. Increased energy efficiency, whether it be in the form of better gas mileage, Energy Star appliances, or “green buildings,” saves American households and businesses billions of dollars each year while also reducing the nation’s overall energy consumption.
“New cars and trucks are more fuel-efficient than ever and, thanks to the Administration’s fuel efficiency standards, they’re projected to roughly double in overall efficiency from 2010 to 2025. We’ll continue to improve upon this,” the White House noted in its response.
In responding to this petition, the White House joins a growing chorus of voices that recognize that the demands of the “Keep it in the Ground” movement are unrealistic and a distraction to the sensible dialogues underway about the nation’s energy needs.
MAIN Coalition Chairman Ed Wiederstein published a compelling opinion piece in the Des Moines Register over the weekend urging President Obama to allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to fulfill their duties in reviewing the Dakota Access Pipeline. Days earlier, Wiederstein, along with other coalition members sent a letter to the White House stressing the importance of this critical investment.
Wiederstein echoed the letter to President Obama in his writing over the weekend, noting that “it now appears that a seemingly straightforward engineering and environmental impact decision has been delayed by special interests in politics,” adding that, “Environmental groups opposed to all forms of energy and infrastructure projects have urged members of the federal government to call into question previous engineering and environmental decisions made by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”
The piece goes on to point out the diverse group of businesses and organizations that make up the MAIN Coalition and recognize the importance of expanding much needed energy infrastructure.
“With a diverse array of backgrounds and interests in our organizations, we are motivated to ensure that this project is authorized and permitted as soon as possible to allow for the opportunity for working people throughout the Midwest to construct this important infrastructure project and to limit the impact on the farmers whose land this pipeline will cross,” said Wiederstein
In conclusion, Wiederstein reiterated the need for the expedient approval of this pipeline project so that thousands may begin work and the impact to farmers is restricted to a one growing season. “Finding no reason to oppose, this project was approved and determined to be in the public interest. We urge the federal government to allow the U.S, Army Corps of Engineers, along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife to do the same, in order to advance this critically important project for our region,” he said.