President Donald Trump signed a pair of executive orders on Tuesday to move forward with the construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines. The decision dismantles efforts by President Barack Obama’s administration to impede the two projects, the latter of which was the recent subject of grueling protests by environmental and Native American activists. Putting pen to paper in the Oval Office, Trump told reporters that he wanted to “renegotiate some of the terms” of the Keystone bill but that he would seek to “get that pipeline built.” He also issued executive actions specifying that pipelines built in the United States should be constructed using only U.S. materials.
Obama rejected the Keystone pipeline project in 2015, arguing that that it would undercut America’s leadership to fight climate change. As proposed by Calgary-based TransCanada, the pipeline would have moved more than 800,000 barrels of petroleum across 1,200 miles and six U.S. states, linking Canadian oil sands to refineries in the Gulf Cost.
Proponents of the pipeline said the project would create more jobs and expand energy resources. Its detractors, on the other hand, warned that oil-sands extraction would generate more planet-warming greenhouse gases than petroleum production.
“So sad that Obama rejected Keystone Pipeline,” Trump, then the GOP presidential frontrunner tweeted that November. “Thousands of jobs, good for the environment, no downside.” While Obama didn’t block the Dakota Access project, the Army Corps of Engineers denied Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners’ request for an easement in early December, before adding that it was was seeking alternative routes for the $3.7 billion pipeline in response to the vigorous backlash.
Protestors, who camped for months in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, rallied against original plans to route the pipeline below Lake Oahe near Standing Rock Sioux reservation, potentially damaging drinking-water supplies and sacred sites. The section under the lake would have been the final piece of the 1,172-mile pipeline, most of which was completed by the summer of 2016.
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe accused Trump of acting “hastily and irresponsibly,” saying in a statement that it would contest the move. “Americans know this pipeline was unfairly rerouted towards our nation and without our consent,” said Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock tribe. “The existing pipeline route risks infringing on our treaty rights, contaminating our water and the water of 17 million Americans downstream.”
Much has been made of Trump’s conflicts of interest, and for good reason. Through at least mid-2016, Trump owned ETP stock through, according to financial disclosure forms. A spokesman told the New York Times last month that Trump had sold all of his stock in June, although there is no way to verify the sale without documentation.
In addition, ETP CEO Kelcy Warren donated $100,000 to Trump’s campaign. And, until recently, U.S. Energy Secretary nominee Rick Perry was a member of ETP’s board.
It’s still unclear what the next steps for the pipelines are, since the documents direct the Army to review the projects and stop just short of guaranteeing approval. What we can be sure of, however, are the renewed protests that are certain to follow. “We have no alternative but to resist,” 350.org, an environmental group founded by Bill McKibben, wrote in a Facebook post. “And we will—in ways [Trump] has never even dreamed of.”