The White House on YouTube: President Trump Signs an Energy Independence Executive Order

Donald Trump boasts about approvals for Dakota Access and Keystone XL

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due to the involvement of environmental groups, the president's new order essentially signals that the rule will be rescinded altogether.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.

Another regulation targeted by Trump's new order also addresses energy standards in Indian Country. It updated methane emissions from oil and gas operations on Indian lands for the first time in 30 years.

The rule not only would address air quality on reservations, it could put more money into the hands of tribes and individual Indians because energy companies would be required to reduce flaring, venting and leaks of natural gas. An additional $1.9 million could flow to Indian royalty owners every year, Native Sun News Today reported in January, after the rule was finalized in the last remaining days of the Obama administration.

But the energy industry is fighting the rule and Trump's latest directive directs Secretary Zinke to "review" it before potentially rescinding it altogether. Both rules were implemented by the Bureau of Land Management, an agency at Interior.

“We can’t power the country on pixie dust and hope," Zinke, who is an adopted member of the Fort Peck Tribes, whose leaders oppose Dakota Access and Keystone XL, said in a statement on Tuesday.

"Today, President Trump took bold and decisive action to end the War on Coal and put us on track for American energy independence,” Zinke added, arguing that the Crow Tribe in his home state of Montana has been hurt by Obama-era policies and decisions affecting coal development.

"I hope to return those jobs to the Crow people," said Zinke, who will be discussing the impacts of Trump's order on a media call on Wednesday.

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