Within days of assuming the presidency, Donald Trump has taken executive actions to advance the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and revive another pipeline project that was rejected under the Obama administration. It's an issue that is followed closely by many people in the Taos area, including at Taos Pueblo.
Trump signed an executive memorandum Jan. 24 directing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to “review and approve in an expedited manner ... requests for approvals to construct and operate the [Dakota Access Pipeline].”
The president also signed three other executive memorandums related to pipelines. One encouraged the company behind the Keystone XL pipeline, which was halted by Obama in 2015 after a massive campaign against the pipeline’s construction, to “promptly re-submit its application … for a Presidential permit for the construction and operation of the Keystone XL Pipeline.”
The other two memorandums laid out an order to construct pipelines with U.S.-produced materials and speed up the environmental review on infrastructure projects, including pipelines.
Trump is known to be an investor in the company behind the DAPL, Dallas, Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners. According to The New York Times, the Trump team has said the new president sold his stock in the company, though that cannot be verified with current financial filings.
The pipeline orders were just part of a number of actions taken by the president to move ahead on key parts of his platform, such as immigration reform and a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Leaders of the resistance against the DAPL were swift to respond.
Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, responded by saying, “By granting the easement, Trump is risking our treaty rights and water supply to benefit his wealthy contributors and friends at DAPL. We are not opposed to energy independence. We are opposed to reckless and politically motivated development projects, like DAPL, that ignore our treaty rights and risk our water. Creating a second Flint [Michigan] does not make America great again.”
Tom B.K. Goldtooth, executive director of the indigenous Environmental Network, also had strong words regarding Trump's intentions. “These actions by President Trump are insane and extreme, and nothing short of attacks on our ancestral homelands as Indigenous peoples,” a Goldtooth statement read. “[They] demonstrate that this administration is more than willing to violate federal law that is meant to protect Indigenous rights, human rights, the environment and the overall safety of communities for the benefit of the fossil fuel industry.”
The statement continued, “These attacks will not be ignored, our resistance is stronger now than ever before and we are prepared to push back at any reckless decision made by this administration. If Trump does not pull back from implementing these orders, it will only result in more massive mobilization and civil disobedience on a scale never seen of a newly seated President of the United States."
Indeed, water protectors and their non-Native American allies mobilized actions and demonstrations this week in major cities around the county, including Seattle, Washington; Los Angeles, California; and New York City, New York. Greenpeace activists scaled a crane near the White House in Washington, D.C., and unfurled a banner that read, “Resist,” following the announcement.
While the resistance camp located near the Missouri River and Standing Rock reservation has been in transition because of concerns about spring flooding — with many people leaving, but a dedicated group staying put — it is unclear how and how quickly the federal government or the pipeline builders will act on Trump’s memorandums.