Air Force One, the president's airplane. Photo: Shealah Craighead / White House
Environment | National | Politics

President Trump doesn't seem to know where Dakota Access Pipeline goes





Last month, President Donald Trump said he had his eyes closed when he approved the Dakota Access Pipeline. More recent comments appear to confirm he recalls little about the controversial project.

According to a transcript of his remarks with reporters aboard Air Force One this week, Trump insisted that the pipeline goes to the "Pacific" when it goes nowhere near that particular body of water. His defense was that the crude oil project boosts America's security and economic interests.

"Dakota Access takes it to the Pacific," Trump told reporters, according to the transcript posted by The New York TImes. "Who do they compete with? Russia."

Trump also insisted that Hillary Clinton, his Democratic rival in the 2016 presidential race, "would have never" approved the pipeline. He followed that up with one of his characteristically muddled asides about "the reservation" but it's not clear exactly what he meant with his use of that particular word.

"Hillary would have never signed — that was with the reservation — she would have never signed it," the president said.

Clinton refused to state her position on the pipeline despite being pressed by young citizens of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who traveled to her campaign headquarters in New York City last October. Trump on the other hand gave strong indications that he would support Dakota Access along with the Keystone XL Pipeline, another controversial crude oil project.

"The other one I signed, that was the Keystone. That was dead. That was dead for two years. It was never going to happen. I revived it on day one," Trump said, according to the transcript, parts of which were incomplete because the White House did not allow his entire remarks to be made public.

  • Nobody thought any politician would have the guts to approve that final leg and I just closed my eyes and said, 'Do It'

  • --President Donald Trump on the Dakota Access Pipeline. June 7, 2017


Trump, incidentally, waited four days to take action on both pipelines. While oil is flowing through Dakota Access as of June 1, Keystone XL is far from becoming a reality amid opposition from tribes, environmentalists and property owners in Nebraska and South Dakota.

"But that goes to the Gulf, right? Competes with Russia," Trump said. Keystone XL does include a component that would reach the Gulf of Mexico.

Dakota Access does reach a body of water that Trump did not mention. The portion his administration approved crosses the Missouri River, where the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe hold water, fishing and other rights guaranteed by treaties with the United States.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved that final portion without addressing the tribes' rights, a federal judge ruled on June 14. He ordered the Trump team to complete an environmental impact statement for the project but there are no signs that the administration is heeding the court's order -- as of Friday morning, nothing has been sent to the Federal Register to restart the review process.

According to The New York Times, Trump's comments were made as he traveled to France on Wednesday evening. The partial transcript of Trump's remarks about the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline follows, with an asterisk (*) representing a portion that the White House left out:
The first thing I signed, the first day, was the Keystone Pipeline. That first * was the Keystone and the Dakota Access Pipeline — also Dakota Access. Now, what does that mean? Dakota Access takes it to the Pacific. Who do they compete with? Russia. Hillary would have never signed — that was with the reservation — she would have never signed it. I was given great credit for that one. That was a tough one. First day. It’s also 48,000 jobs between both of them. The other one I signed, that was the Keystone. That was dead. That was dead for two years. It was never going to happen. I revived it on day one. You know, you’ll check, please check it. I have to be exactly accurate. They’ll say, oh I wasn’t totally accurate. But that goes to the Gulf, right? Competes with Russia.

Federal Register Notices:
Notice of Termination of the Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement in Connection With Dakota Access, LLC's Request for an Easement To Cross Lake Oahe, North Dakota (February 17, 2017)
Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement in Connection With Dakota Access, LLC's Request for an Easement To Cross Lake Oahe, North Dakota (January 18, 2017)

Dakota Access Pipeline Approval Documents:
Department of Justice Notice | Department of the Army Approval Memorandum | Notice of Termination of EIS for Dakota Access Pipeline | Easement Letter to Congressional Leadership

White House Documents:
Presidential Memorandum Regarding Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (January 24, 2017)
Presidential Memorandum Regarding Construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline (January 24, 2017)
Executive Order Expediting Environmental Reviews and Approvals For High Priority Infrastructure Projects (January 24, 2017)
Presidential Memorandum Regarding Construction of American Pipelines (January 24, 2017)
Presidential Memorandum Streamlining Permitting and Reducing Regulatory Burdens for Domestic Manufacturing (January 24, 2017)
Press Release: President Trump Takes Action to Expedite Priority Energy and Infrastructure Projects (January 24, 2017)

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