Amid continued controversy and protests surrounding the expansion of American oil extraction, Donald Trump took action on his rebukes of former Obama administration environmental policies, along with Native American and climate change activists concerns. Signing the executive orders on Tuesday, they will allow for the construction of both the Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines.
During the election cycle, Trump was certain to deny the effects of climate change science, all the while assuring Americans that he would be bringing energy infrastructure business, jobs, and wealth back to the country. These executive orders should come as no surprise then, fitting soundly with the narrative that he has presented up to this point.
The revival of the Keystone XL pipeline, which was rejected by President Obama, would create 1,200 miles of pipelines across the US, allowing the flow of petroleum extracted from the Canadian Tar Sands all the way to the Gulf Coast. The Dakota Access pipeline, a project met by determined protests over the possibility of surrounding water contamination and the destruction of sacred Native American sites, would allow for the transportation of crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois. While specific information on the projects has yet to be released, Trump and Sean Spicer, White House press secretary, have stated that the terms and conditions would be further discussed until agreeable negotiations were met.
However, while these executive orders might create “tens of thousands of new jobs” across American and Canadian soil, as stated by Spicer, one question is left unanswered and ignorantly neglected by the Trump administration – at what cost are these supposed jobs and wealth being produced?
Protests staged by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, whose reservation lies just downstream from where the pipeline would be crossing the Missouri River, fear the negative implications that might come from its construction. Their fears are not unsubstantiated either, when previous examples of pipeline spills, many undetected by faulty equipment and monitoring, have caused thousands of gallons of spilled oil to contaminate surrounding water supplies and the devastate surrounding wildlife.
In December, when the US army corps of engineers denied the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline, many protesters saw it as a victory for the preservation of the environment and Native American sacred grounds. However, too many activists and protesters, Trump’s executive actions as of Tuesday feel politically motivated – the beginning of the administration’s actions in response to its disagreements with the Obama administration and the effects of climate change.
Releasing such an executive order only four days into his inauguration as the President of the United States, this is a definitive statement of what is to come. Not only is this a decision that immediately determines the side of which energy capital the Trump administration will side with – oil/coal vs. renewable energies – but it speaks volumes in its response to the former policies enacted by the Obama administration. Considering that one of his first executive orders on entering office was to begin the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, it seems apparent that the Trump administration is attempting to formally lash out against the prior political programs that they disagreed with, rescinding former legislation and executive actions.
For those that are concerned with the current actions of the newly inaugurated president, you are certainly not alone. With the effects of global climate change becoming more evident and the disturbing expectations to follow repeal of the Affordable Care Act expected, public unrest with the recent actions are understandable. Yet, unease without action provides nothing . Just as those who support these actions may revel in the confirmation of these executive actions, you must also voice your discontent with the current political climate. If you are concerned for the conservation of land and the personal rights and safety of others, in how they may be affected by these executive orders, you must speak out against them. Otherwise, the continuation of these repeals will continued unnoticed and unchallenged.
Photo: Evan Vuccl | Associated Press