President Donald Trump, in his first week of assuming office, signed executive orders to revive the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.
On Jan. 31, two members of the Congress from North Dakota released statements stating acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer has ordered the United States Corps of Engineers to notify Congress that they are granting the final easement for construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The Department of Justice, however, says there has not yet been a formal issuance of the easement.
In December, the Obama administration ordered a halt to the construction of the controversial pipeline for an environmental study but Trump, after his inauguration, moved forward to support the structure.
If the easement is granted soon, the decision would be rash and imprudent because tensions are still strained between the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, law enforcement and the pipeline company, and without levelheaded interventions, there is a chance for things to boil over and turn to violence as construction of the pipeline resumes.
The Dakota Access Pipeline will cross under the Missouri River near the Standing Rock reservation and the tribe has expressed concerns that oil leaks may result in contamination of drinking water and destruction of sacred burial grounds.
The fear is quite valid. Not a day after Trump gave the order to resume construction of the controversial DAPL, a pipeline in Iowa burst, flooding an agricultural field with 46,380 gallons of oil. This particular pipeline did not threaten waterways or cause injuries but it does draw attention to the risks of oil pipelines.
Supporters of oil pipelines say it is a much safer method to transport crude oil to refineries than trains. Even so, more than 7 million gallons of oil leaked from more than 1,000 pipelines between 2010 and 2015. This newest spill only confirms the fact that pipelines leak and they are not, in fact, foolproof.
“This really speaks to the central problem, which is that we’re not even surprised that this company spilled something out of a pipeline because it’s inevitable,” said Greenpeace researcher Jesse Coleman. “That’s what’s really frightening about these larger pipelines.”
“You can never really rehabilitate an area that got soaked in gasoline. Even this spill, it can’t be cleaned up,” he added. “That gives you some idea of what will happen when the Dakota Access pipeline or the Keystone XL pipeline fails. It’s irreversible.”
The Standing Rock tribe has stated it will continue the battle to save its waterways.
Yet all of this does not concern the Republican bloc. Rep. Kevin Cramer issued a statement in which he praised Trump for his prompt actions:
“[The pipeline is an] important piece of energy infrastructure enhancing America's energy security and putting North Dakotans and Americans back to work. President Trump has proven to be a man of action and I am grateful for his commitment to this and other critical infrastructure projects so vital to our nation.”
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Stephanie Keith