Trump Greenlights Dakota Access Pipeline [Updated]

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This post has been updated with comments from groups opposed to and supportive of the Dakota Access pipeline.

Less than a week after being sworn in as the nation’s 45th president, Donald Trump signed executive actions to advance the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines that had been stalled by the Obama administration.

It was an expected move by Trump, who signed the action despite his administration’s recent financial interests in Dakota Access’ parent company, Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners LLC. Until recently, Trump owned between $15,000 and $50,000 in ETP stock. According to a spokesperson, last June he also sold between $100,000 and $250,000 in stock from Phillips 66, which owns a partial stake in the Dakota Access pipeline project. (Campaign finance disclosure laws don’t require the reporting of exact stock figures but only a range.) Rick Perry, Trump’s nominee to head the Department of Energy, also until recently sat on ETP’s corporate board of directors.

“I believe that construction and operation of lawfully permitted pipeline infrastructure serve the national interest,” read a White House memorandum from Trump published Tuesday.

The memo also apparently addressed eminent domain. “Nothing in this memorandum alters any Federal, State, or local process or condition in effect on the date of this memorandum that is necessary to secure access from an owner of private property to construct the pipeline and facilities described herein,” it said. “Land or an interest in land for the pipeline and facilities described herein may only be acquired consistently with the Constitution and applicable State laws.”

“We’re not surprised, nor are we intimidated,” said Ed Fallon, director of the environmental advocacy group Bold Iowa, in a statement released Tuesday. “First of all, there are landowners’ court challenges to eminent domain still waiting to be decided. But most importantly, the alliance of landowners, farmers, Tribal communities, environmentalists and property-rights defenders who’ve fought this pipeline for over two years aren’t going to lie down and let the President’s Big Oil buddies roll over us. They want to destroy our land, water and climate and trample on our Constitutional rights? Well, they’ve got a fight on their hands — a huge fight.”

On Wednesday, the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition called Trump’s move “irresponsible,” vowed to continue fighting the project, and called on the US Army Corps of Engineers to move forward with an environmental impact statement it announced it would prepare after public input instead of approving an easement for Dakota Access to bury the pipeline under North Dakota’s Lake Oahe near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

The Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now, a four-state coalition of ag, business, and labor groups whose public relations efforts are managed by Republican lobbying firm DCI Group, praised Trump for his decision. “We applaud and appreciate President Trump’s immediate and decisive action to expedite the final easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline,” coalition spokesman Craig Stevens said in a statement Tuesday. “President Trump’s decision shows businesses that the rule of law will be respected and demonstrates an affirmation of regulatory certitude to those looking to invest in America.”

Gavin Aronsen
Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.