January 24, 2017; Washington Post
Editor’s note: Day 3 of Trump’s executive orders will by all reports focus on immigration policy and related issues. NPQ will keep you apprised.
President Trump may be observing “theme days” in making executive orders and signing presidential memoranda, and yesterday’s targeted the environment. Of course, there was a run-up to it. Early yesterday, it was reported that the administration had frozen or suspended all of the Environmental Protection Agency’s grants and contracts. Now, there is some precedent for that kind of move in a transition, but we also noted yesterday cancellation of a CDC conference that was to have taken up the public health issues that might flow from climate change.
Not only did Trump sign memoranda to restart the work on the Keystone and Dakota Access (DAPL) pipelines, but he also signed an executive order to expedite environmental reviews of other infrastructure projects in order to eliminate the “incredibly cumbersome, long, horrible permitting process.”
It is unclear what will actually occur as a result of those orders, since many of the infrastructure projects to which he refers have statutorily required environmental reviews. His memorandum directing the Secretary of Commerce to work toward mandating U.S.-manufactured steel be used in all pipeline projects may hold up a restart of TransCanada Corporation’s Keystone XL pipeline project.
From now on, we’re going to be making pipeline in the United States. We build the pipelines, we want to build the pipe. We’re going to put a lot of workers, a lot of skilled workers, back to work. We will build our own pipeline, we will build our own pipes, like we used to in the old days.
Ah, the good old days!
Trump says that part of his motivation in restarting these projects is the potential for creating jobs—specifically, on Keystone XL, a “lot of jobs, 28,000 jobs, great construction jobs.” Business Insider reports that Trump is inflating the numbers of jobs that would be created in these projects by a factor of seven, if we were to take the state department’s 2014 Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the project as a credible source. That report estimates construction jobs associated with the pipeline at 3,900.
To be generous, maybe Trump was inaccurately discussing all jobs of whatever duration and of any kind that might flow from pipeline activity.
It’s possible the president was including other types of jobs the pipeline construction could create. In total, the report estimates that the firms that get awarded contracts for goods and services (including the construction) would add 16,100 jobs. Those people in turn could create another 26,000 jobs depending on how they spend their wages—a phenomenon the report calls “indirect and induced spending.”
However, none of those numbers match the one Trump used, and the report defines the term “job” as one position that is filled for one year.
Mother Jones describes the process for Keystone XL:
Sign up for our free newsletters
Subscribe to NPQ's newsletters to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.
Presumably the next step for the 1,179-mile Keystone XL will be for TransCanada to resubmit its application to the new administration. There are two ways Trump could greenlight Keystone from there. He can eliminate the need for a National Interest Determination, which would involve the State Department collecting information from multiple federal agencies about whether the project is in the national interest. (The Obama administration previously declared that the project did not serve the national interest.) Or he and his Secretary of State could simply reverse the Obama ruling and declare that building the pipeline is indeed in the national interest.
In the meantime, activists are preparing a number of strategies to delay or halt any attempts to restart the project.
Meanwhile, the DAPL pipeline will still need an Army Corps of Engineers easement to build under Lake Oahe in North Dakota. The resisters can hardly be surprised at the revival of the Dakota pipeline plans by presidential memorandum:
Trump used to be invested in Energy Transfer Partners, the company developing the Dakota Access pipeline, but he sold his $50,000 stake last summer. Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren donated $100,000 to the Trump Victory Fund, a joint fundraising effort by the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee, and state Republican parties.
According to Common Dreams, the reactions to these orders have been swift and firm. The cofounder of 350.org, Bill McKibben, said in a statement, “More people sent comments against Dakota Access and Keystone XL to the government than any project in history. The world’s climate scientists and its Nobel laureates explained over and over why it was unwise and immoral. In one of his first actions as president, Donald Trump ignores all that in his eagerness to serve the oil industry. It’s a dark day for reason, but we will continue the fight.”
May Boeve, the ED of 350.org, agreed that the order would not go unopposed. “Indigenous peoples, landowners, and climate activists did everything in our power to stop Keystone XL and Dakota Access, and we’ll do it again. These orders will only reignite the widespread grassroots opposition to these pipelines and other dirty energy projects. Trump is about to meet the fossil fuel resistance head on.”
The issue extends well beyond environmental concerns to matters of deeply felt environmental justice and sovereignty. Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, commented:
President Trump is legally required to honor our treaty rights and provide a fair and reasonable pipeline process. 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.
By granting the easement, Trump is risking our treaty rights and water supply to benefit his wealthy contributors and friends at DAPL. We are not opposed to energy independence. We are opposed to reckless and politically motivated development projects, like DAPL, that ignore our treaty rights and risk our water. Creating a second Flint does not make America great again.
Greenpeace executive director Annie Leonard promised continued international resistance. “Instead of pushing bogus claims about the potential of pipelines to create jobs, Trump should focus his efforts on the clean energy sector where America’s future lives. […] Renewable energy is not only the future, but the only just economy for today. Keystone, the Dakota Access Pipeline, and fossil fuel infrastructure projects like them will only make billionaires richer and make the rest of us suffer.”
Meanwhile, after the administration ordered the National Park Service to observe a Twitter blackout on Friday after someone retweeted news stories about comparative crowd sizes and climate science (since reinstated), rogue Tweets were sent out of Badlands National Park Service today, clarifying scientific facts on climate change that contradicted some of Trump’s positions. They have since been taken down.—Ruth McCambridge