For years, the Obama administration used its executive authority to obstruct two crucial energy infrastructure projects: the Dakota Access pipeline and the Keystone XL pipeline.
Today, the obstruction finally came to an end when President Donald Trump signed two executive orders. This action affirms our new president’s respect for the rule of law and his support for responsible infrastructure development, energy production, and job creation.
One of the executive orders directs all federal agencies, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to expedite approval of the easement to complete construction of the Dakota Access pipeline project.
Another order invites the TransCanada Corp. to resubmit its application for the Keystone XL pipeline and directs the State Department to expedite its review.
A pair of agency-directed memos signed Tuesday by President Donald Trump could force completion of the controversial Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota as well as breathe new life into the Canadian-based Keystone XL pipeline.
Trump’s memo did not grant a drilling easement for the $3.8 billion Dakota Access project to cross U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land on the Missouri River/Lake Oahe but directs the agency to expedite review with the idea that prior reviews already satisfy federal law.
Congressman Kevin Cramer said he believes the memo will force the agency to rescind the decision it made last week to begin a full-blown environmental impact statement on the crossing and issue an easement in short order.
Cramer said he made contact Tuesday with federal law enforcement agencies, including the CIA and the U.S. Marshal service, in anticipation of pushback from hundreds of pipeline protesters camped near the water crossing just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation when construction resumes.
A recently published Wall Street Journal op-ed from Congressman Kevin Cramer of North Dakota dispels many of inaccuracies being reported about the project and highlights the extensive process and review of the Dakota Access Pipeline project.
In the op-ed Congressman Cramer states the following facts:
This isn’t about tribal rights or protecting cultural resources. The pipeline does not cross any land owned by the Standing Rock Sioux. The land under discussion belongs to private owners and the federal government. To suggest that the Standing Rock tribe has the legal ability to block the pipeline is to turn America’s property rights upside down.
Two federal courts have rejected claims that the tribe wasn’t consulted. The project’s developer and the Army Corps made dozens of overtures to the Standing Rock Sioux over more than two years. Often these attempts were ignored or rejected, with the message that the tribe would only accept termination of the project.
Other tribes and parties did participate in the process. More than 50 tribes were consulted, and their concerns resulted in 140 adjustments to the pipeline’s route. The project’s developer and the Army Corps were clearly concerned about protecting tribal artifacts and cultural sites. Any claim otherwise is unsupported by the record. The pipeline’s route was also studied—and ultimately supported—by the North Dakota Public Service Commission (on which I formerly served), the State Historic Preservation Office, and multiple independent archaeologists.
This isn’t about water protection. Years before the pipeline was announced, the tribe was working with the Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps to relocate its drinking-water intake. The new site sits roughly 70 miles downstream of where the pipeline is slated to cross the Missouri River. Notably, the new intake, according to the Bureau of Reclamation, will be 1.6 miles downstream of an elevated railroad bridge that carries tanker cars carrying crude oil.
This isn’t about the climate. The oil that will be shipped through the pipeline is already being produced. But right now it is transported in more carbon-intensive ways, such as by railroad or long-haul tanker truck. So trying to thwart the pipeline to reduce greenhouse gas could have the opposite effect.
What’s left that this issue could be about? Politics.
Unfortunately all the processes and laws in the world could not stop the politics of an outgoing administration attempting to cement a legacy. But the beauty of politics is that they are hardly permanent.
In 44 days a new presidential administration will have the opportunity to do the right thing; enforce the law, end a dangerous standoff, and release the final easement for Dakota Access to continue construction.
A little more than two weeks ago, during a confrontation between protesters and law enforcement, an improvised explosive device was detonated on a public bridge in southern North Dakota. That was simply the latest manifestation of the “prayerful” and “peaceful” protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Escalating tensions were temporarily defused Sunday when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, at the direction of the Obama administration, announced it would refuse to grant the final permit needed to complete the $3.8 billion project. The pipeline, which runs nearly 1,200 miles from the Bakken Shale in North Dakota to Illinois, is nearly complete except for a small section where it needs to pass under the Missouri River. Denying the permit for that construction only punts the issue to next month—to a new president who won’t thumb his nose at the rule of law.
Like many North Dakotans, I’ve had to endure preaching about the pipeline from the press, environmental activists, musicians and politicians in other states. More often than not, these sermons are informed by little more than a Facebook post. At the risk of spoiling the protesters’ narrative, I’d like to bring us back to ground truth.
North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer offered a lengthy, detailed response to Dakota Access Pipeline critics during a Friday morning speech on the House floor. Cramer, an advocate for American energy independence, addressed both the Obama Administration’s inaction and the unlawful protest activities.
“Mr. Speaker, for more than 3 months, thousands of rioters disguising themselves as prayerful people, peaceful protesters, have illegally camped on Federal land owned or at least managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, owned by the taxpayers of this country. … At the center of this issue is an administration that refuses–not just refuses to follow the rule of law, but enables and encourages the breaking of the law, beginning with the fact that thousands of illegal protesters are allowed to camp, to trespass on federally owned land.”
Cramer, who served as one of North Dakota’s utility regulators for nine years before being elected to Congress, went on to emphasize that pipelines like Dakota Access are the safest, most efficient, and environmentally friendly way to transport our energy resources. Without the pipeline, Bakken producers will still send product to market, but will be forced to rely on less reliable alternatives like railcars and trucks, Cramer added.
In addition, Cramer strongly disputed misguided rumors about decisions made during the routing of the pipeline.
“[The Dakota Access Pipeline] was always planned for this location for a very good reason, Mr. Speaker. … The main reason this route was chosen was because it was the least intrusive on the environment, on waterways, on private property, and on cultural resources. The other locations that were under consideration that were not chosen crossed many more bodies of water and were much closer to many wells and cultural resources and very important historical resources. It was 48 extra miles of previously undisturbed field areas. This is and was the best route because it is an existing corridor. In this same corridor, there is already a natural gas pipeline. There is already a large electric transmission line. That is why it was chosen.”
Cramer concluded by discussing the impact the months long protest is having in North Dakota, noting that the state government has had to borrow $17 million to cover law enforcement costs.
In a letter sent on November 23rd to President Obama, North Dakota Senator John Hoeven, Congressman Kevin Cramer, and Governor Jack Dalrymple called on the White House to allow the Army Corps of Engineers to issue the final easement needed to complete the 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline project and provide federal resources to assist with ongoing protests.
“We call on you again to direct the Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) to approve, without further delay, the final federal easement for the Lake Oahe crossing of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Further, in the strongest terms possible, we recommend you provide federal law enforcement resources immediately to state and local agencies in order to maintain public safety, which has been threatened by ongoing – and oftentimes violent – protest activity. These resources are essential to prevent further destruction on and surrounding federal lands.”
North Dakota’s top elected officials went on to highlight that construction of the pipeline is now over 86 percent and has undergone extensive state and federal regulatory reviews over the past two and a half years. Furthermore, they note that two federal courts have ruled in favor of letting the project proceed.
“Twice challenged and twice upheld – including by your own appointees – federal courts found that the Army Corps had followed the appropriate process, the tribe was properly consulted and the project could lawfully proceed. As a former Constitutional law professor you certainly understand there is no legal reason to withhold this easement.”
The letter comes as protesters resort to increasingly dangerous and violent tactics to harm law enforcement officers, trespass on private property, and obstruct construction of the pipeline. President Obama’s decision to “let it play out” my be politically convenient in Washington, but in North Dakota, the administration’s refusal to follow and enforce the rule of law has left entire communities on edge.
For more than three months, thousands of protesters, most of them from out of state, have illegally camped on federal land in Morton County, North Dakota, to oppose the construction of a legally permitted oil pipeline project that is 85 percent complete.
The celebrities, political activists, and anti-oil extremists who are blocking the pipeline’s progress are doing so based on highly charged emotions rather than actual facts on the ground.
This 1,172-mile Dakota Access pipeline will deliver as many as 570,000 barrels of oil a day from northwestern North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to connect to existing pipelines in Illinois. It will do this job far more safely than the current method of transporting it by 750 rail cars a day.
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.