The Trump administration continues to chart a dramatically new course in energy policy in hopes of spurring jobs and growing the American economy, even if it's at the expense of Indian Country's interests.
Boasting about his approvals of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline, President Donald Trump signed yet another energy-related executive order on Tuesday. With Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and other Cabinet officials at his side, he declared an end to the "war on coal" and to "job-killing regulations" that he said were hurting the nation.
"We’re ending the theft of American prosperity, and rebuilding our beloved country," Trump said during the signing ceremony. "We approved the permit to finally build the Keystone XL Pipeline, and cleared the way to completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline."
Trump said his decisions, which have generated widespread opposition in Indian Country, will result in "thousands and thousands of jobs," a claim that has been disputed by tribes and grassroots activists who insist the pipelines will cause harm to their homelands and their way of life.
But while tribes continue to fight the Keystone and Dakota Access projects, some might actually welcome his latest order. In it, he directed the Department of the Interior to roll back an energy development regulation that imposed hydraulic fracturing standards in Indian Country.
Tribes that allow fracking on their lands objected to the rule and have been fighting it in the courts. The Ute Tribe secured a major victory when a federal judge ordered it to be suspended pending additional review.
The Obama administration filed an appeal in hopes of saving the regulation but the Trump team has since backed away from it. Although the case remains alive due to the involvement of environmental groups, the president's new order essentially signals that the rule will be rescinded altogether.
While the move would lessen federal burdens on tribes, reservation activists
saw the rule as a way to improve accountability in their communities. Prior to its issuance in March 2015, well-drilling standards hadn't been updated in more than 30 years and hadn't kept up with new technologies like fracking.
"I live with oil and gas," Lisa DeVille, a citizen of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, said at the Native Nations Rise rally at the White House earlier this month. She has been battling fracking activities on her tribe's reservation in North Dakota because she is worried about negative impacts on the environment.
"No pipeline is safe," DeVille added.