Donald Trump signs executive order to revive Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines

Trump officially backs the development of oil pipelines, rolling back decisions by the Obama administration blocking the controversial projects

Protests against the two pipelines are unlikely to stop, but their effect may be negligible in the face of Trump's insistence

On January 25, US President Donald Trump signed several executive orders in a move that cleared the way for the construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines, projects that had previously been halted by the his predecessor Barack Obama. The move was met with steep criticism from both environmental activists and Native Americans, who have bitterly opposed the pipelines.

The $3.7bn Dakota project involves building a 1,172-mile underground pipeline, starting at the Bakken shale oil fields in north-west North Dakota, passing through South Dakota and Iowa, and terminating at a shipping point in Illinois. The project sparked high-profile protests after being bitterly opposed by Native Americans in Iowa and the Dakotas, whose sacred burial sites are threatened by the planned route. After a hard-fought battle by the Native American Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their supporters, the Obama administration halted the project in December by denying the company a permit to build through the Missouri River.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe decried the order a violation of “law and tribal treaties”

The Keystone pipeline had also been a subject of contention, and was blocked in late 2015 by the Obama administration. Trump’s executive order, however, will clear the path for construction to be revived. Upon signing the order, Trump said: “This is on the Keystone pipeline, something that has been in dispute and it is subject to a renegotiation of terms by us…we are going to renegotiate some of the terms. And then if they like, we’ll see if we can get that pipeline built. A lot of jobs, 28,000 jobs. Great construction jobs.” If the Keystone project comes to light, it will span around 1,200 miles across six US states, easing oil transport from Canada to refineries in the Gulf Coast. The executive orders will not spell the end to opposition, but will substantially ease the path of the disputes for construction to resume for the pipelines.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe decried the order a violation of “law and tribal treaties”, with the Chairman of the tribe, Dave Archambault II, stating: “Americans know this pipeline was unfairly rerouted towards our nation and without our consent.”

Furthermore, environmental groups reacted with fierce opposition to the move. “Donald Trump has been in office for four days and he’s already proving to be the dangerous threat to our climate we feared he would be”, said Michael Brune, Director of US environmental organisation Sierra Club.

The move signals that Trump is serious about following up on his anti-environmentalist stance. His campaign heavily pushed for the expansion of energy infrastructure, dismissing his democratic rivals’ concerns as being anti-business. “From now on we’re going to start making pipelines in the United States…like we used to do in the old days”, he said.