Environment | National | Politics

Donald Trump embraces big energy projects like Dakota Access Pipeline






Chairman Dave Archambault Jr. of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, second from right, and Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota), right, toured a Dakota Access Pipeline construction site in North Dakota on October 20, 2016. Photo by Rep. Kevin Cramer

Indian Country's efforts to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline will face even bigger hurdles if Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump wins the November election.

With two weeks left before the crucial vote and with his campaign faltering, Trump is vowing to revive the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline that tribes fought hard to defeat. And while he hasn't mentioned the Dakota Access Pipeline by name he is promising to remove the Obama administration's "roadblocks" to large-scale infrastructure projects.

"We have roadblocks like you have never ever seen: environmental blocks, structural blocks," Trump said in Pennsylvania on Saturday as he outlined what he would do in his first 100 days in office. "We are going to allow the Keystone Pipeline and so many other things to move forward."

"Tremendous numbers of jobs, and good for our country," Trump added as the crowd applauded, echoing arguments advanced by backers of the Keystone and Dakota Access projects and by their Republican supporters.

But President Barack Obama came to the opposite conclusion about Keystone last November. In an address from the White House, he killed the controversial multi-state pipeline, saying it wasn't in the best interests of the United States.


C-SPAN: Presidential Candidate Donald Trump Remarks in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Tribes are pressing Obama to do the same for Dakota Access. Due to concerns raised by Indian Country, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has yet to approve an easement for a critical portion of the $3.8 project -- one of those "roadblocks" cited by Trump in his address at Gettysburg.

"At the end of the day we just need the Corps of Engineers to deny the easement and for the Corps of Engineers to require DAPL to do a full environmental impact statement," National Congress of American Indians President Brian Cladoosby said in an interview as tribes met in Phoenix, Arizona, for NCAI's annual convention earlier this month.

The Army Corps has been promising a decision on the easement "soon" but the process will continue to play out in the next presidential administration, making the outcome of the November 8 election a big one for tribal interests. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the Yankton Sioux Tribe have lawsuits pending in federal court that will depend, in large part, on agency leaders appointed by the next occupant of the White House.

Separately, the leaders of the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior initiated government-to-government talks on large infrastructure projects like Dakota Access but a President Trump could change course by stopping the consultation or ignoring the results. As part of his speech, he's already promising to cancel every "unconstitutional" executive action, memorandum and order issued by Obama.

ACTION ALERT: CALL! MESSAGE! SHARE! Standing Rock needs your help by calling and messaging President Obama to tell him...

Posted by Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on Monday, October 10, 2016

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on Facebook: Tell President Obama to reject the Dakota Access Pipeline

Trump's positions reflect the Republican Party's embrace of the energy industry. But they also speak to the influence of Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota), a campaign adviser who has been an outspoken defender of Dakota Access.

"I am certain that after today the Corps of Engineers will feel confident it has the adequate affirmation to issue the final easement to complete the pipeline construction across the Missouri River at Lake Oahe," Cramer said last Thursday after touring a construction site with a group that included Chairman Dave Archambault Jr. of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

The tribe has been calling for a full environmental review of Dakota Access, something that didn't happen in North Dakota because most of the pipeline crosses treaty lands now held in private ownership. But Army Corps' policies also determine and, to a certain extent, restrict how the agency reviews these kinds of projects.

"A project of this magnitude often necessitates an extensive federal appraisal and permitting process. Not so here," Judge James E. Boasberg wrote in September in describing the unusual and complex nature of the dispute. "Domestic oil pipelines, unlike natural-gas pipelines, require no general approval from the federal government."

"In fact, DAPL needs almost no federal permitting of any kind because 99% of its route traverses private land," he continued.


Indianz.Com on YouTube: Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez 'Yeiya Trump' [Scary Trump]

While Trump is effectively embracing Dakota Access, his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton has not said a word about the issue. The Democratic Party's platform, though, includes strong language that calls for stringent reviews of big energy projects.

Still, tribal leaders who support Clinton say she is the far better choice when it comes to Indian interests. Vice President Jonathan Nez of the Navajo Nation is encouraging his citizens to vote for the former Secretary of State and former U.S. Senator.

"What’s going to happen if there’s a Trump in the White House? We don’t want that, right?" Nez said on Friday at a Native vote rally in Shiprock, New Mexico, that was organized by the Democratic National Committee. "We don't want that? No."

"So I always say," Nez continued, "Yeiya Trump, Yeiya Trump."

"Yeiya Trump" means "Scary Trump" in the Navajo language.

With additional reporting by Tara Gatewood from Phoenix, Arizona.

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