Trump signs Dakota Access Pipeline memo to speed process

President also wants to ‘build our own pipelines with our own pipes’

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
Posted Jan 24, 2017

At the White House Jan. 24, U.S. President Donald Trump holds up a presidential memorandum he had just signed related to the Dakota Access pipeline. Photo: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

[Episcopal News Service] While reaction to President Donald Trump’s Jan. 24 actions designed to move forward both the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines was swift, the immediate impact of his memoranda remained unclear.

Nothing in Trump’s memorandum on the Dakota Access Pipeline appears to force approval of the project but it calls on officals to speed up the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ ongoing environmental review process.

A presidential memorandum is somewhat different from a presidential executive order and some observers say it has a lesser impact.

Other observers wondered if Trump’s decision to sign the documents fit what they see as a pattern of Trump and his aides seeking to distract the media from other events happening as the administration gears up, including nomination hearings, ethics inquiries and changes to websites and policies that restrict communication with the public and prevent public input. Also published on Jan. 24 was a proclamation that Trump signed soon after becoming president Jan. 20, declaring that day to be a “National Day of Patriotic Devotion.”

In the Dakota Access Pipeline memo Trump tells the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to “review and approve in an expedited manner, to the extent permitted by law and as warranted, and with such conditions as are necessary or appropriate” the company’s request to finish the pipeline. The remaining work would push the pipeline under Lake Oahe on the Missouri River just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation reservation. The proposed crossing is upstream from the tribe’s reservation boundaries, and the tribe has water, treaty fishing and hunting rights in the lake.

The Corps decided Dec. 4 to put that work on hold, cheering opponents, and conduct the environmental impact statement, including exploring alternative routes.

At the time, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry asked that “the assessment involve extensive consultation with affected populations, and that any plan going forward honor treaty obligations with the Standing Rock Sioux.”

The Episcopal Church has been advocating with the Sioux Nation about the pipeline since summer 2016. Local Episcopalians have also provided a ministry of presence in and around Cannon Ball, North Dakota, which has been the focal point for the groups of water protectors that gathered near the proposed crossing.

However, Trump’s order says the Army shall “consider, to the extent permitted by law and as warranted, whether to rescind or modify” its Dec. 4 decision, revert to the Corps July 2016 environmental assessment and grant the required easement for the lake crossing.

The Standing Rock Sioux Nation said that Trump’s actions Jan. 24 violate the law and tribal treaties. Saying it will take legal action against Trump’s efforts, the tribe added, “Nothing will deter us from our fight for clean water.”

The tribe urged its supporters “to fight and stand tall beside us,” and to contact their representatives in Congress to “let them know that the people do not stand behind today’s decision.”

Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said Trump “is legally required to honor our treaty rights and provide a fair and reasonable pipeline process.”

The tribe’s statement noted that on Jan. 18 the Corps opened the public comment phase of its environmental impact analysis of the company’s request. Public comment is due by Feb. 17.

The Sioux Nation said last week that it welcomed the Corps’ work but said “it should include at the very least the territory of the entire Great Sioux Nation, and not just Lake Oahe and the northern boundary of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s Reservation.”

Trump told reporters during a White House Oval Office signing ceremony that both pipelines will be subject to conditions being negotiated by U.S. officials – including a requirement that the pipe itself be manufactured in America. “I am very insistent that if we’re going to build pipelines in the United States, the pipes should be made in the United States,” he said, noting that his requirement will take time to fulfill because most steel piping used in the United States is made elsewhere.

“From now on we are going to start making pipelines in the United States,” Trump said from the Oval Office. “We will build our own pipelines with our own pipes, that’s what it has to do with, like we used to in the old days,” he said, adding that the directive will put “lots of steelworkers” back to work.

Trump did not comment on his directive about the Dakota Access Pipeline. Press Secretary Sean Spicer later told reporters that Trump “has shown through his business life that he knows how to negotiate a great deal where parties come out ahead.” Spicer said Trump is willing to sit down “with all of the individuals who are involved in the Dakota pipeline to make sure that it is a deal that benefits all of the parties of interest or at least gets something that they want.”

Texts of the pipeline-related actions taken by Trump Jan. 24 are here and here.

The 1,172-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline is poised to carry up to 570,000 gallons of oil a day from the Bakken oil field in northwestern North Dakota – through South Dakota and Iowa – to Illinois where it will be shipped to refineries. The pipeline was to pass within one-half mile of the Standing Rock Reservation and Sioux tribal leaders repeatedly expressed concerns over the potential for an oil spill that would damage the reservation’s water supply, and the threat the pipeline posed to sacred sites and treaty rights. The company developing the pipeline, Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, says it will be safe.

Thousands of people, including Native Americans and indigenous people representing about 300 tribes from around the world, traveled to North Dakota in summer and fall of 2016 in an unprecedented show of solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation.

The tribe recently told the people remaining in the protest camps to leave due to safety and environmental concerns over flooding as the massive snowpack in the area melts. The snowpack typically melts swiftly in the area, causing rapid flooding that could sweep people and material into the river. The tribal council was also concerned about continuing protests at the Backwater Bridge leading to and from the area. The tribe had requested an end to those protests but some people in the camps had ignored that request.

Previous Episcopal News Service coverage is here.

The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service.


Comments (23)

  1. Stephen Kratovil says:

    I’ve been an Episcopalian all my life, as well as attending Episcopal schools, and I find the Church’s swing to the left on political matters and opining on secular matters and government policy, very disturbing. A significant numbers of my friends have left the church over this liberal political bias. I expect if the Church doesn’t change its incursion in political life, only Hollywood types and the far left liberal wing of the Progressives will only be the only potential members. Please get back to God’s work and welcome all of all different political persuasions and leave politics outside the Church door.

    1. Michael C. Brown says:

      Thank you Stephen. My family’s thoughts exactly.

    2. Michael J. Staley says:

      As Gay Jennings+ said in her remarks following the election of Mr. Trump, “resistance is holy work.” Indeed it is. There were folks, like you, hiding behind stained glass windows, to paraphrase Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words, who used similar rhetoric to claim that the church should stay out of the racial politics in the south in the 1960s. But that was (and remains) holy work. Similarly, DAPL has racial and environmental implications, and it’s high time we do God’s work,” and be good stewards of creation, and to stand up for the afflicted.

      And so, while you claim that many people are leaving the church because the church chooses to act, I will also add that I, as a young convert, wouldn’t be interested in a church that stood idly by. I converted to a church, not a country club.

    3. Michael Patterson says:

      I have been an Episcopalian since the cradle, and the church’s active engagement in social justice is the primary reason why I proudly remain in the fold. In the present political climate in the U.S., the “left” is good and just, and the “right” is evil. If the church were to stand with the “right” side of the political spectrum, I would ditched it long ago.

      1. Michael Patterson says:

        I should clarify that my view of what is “right” and “left” in the current political spectrum do not necessarily correspond with Democratic and Republican Party platforms…

    4. Glenn Johnson says:

      They left the church because they are not Christians, never were, never paid heed to the words of Jesus. Political parities have nothing to do with it. The words of Jesus are what count.

      1. Bill Louis says:

        No Glenn, people are leaving the church not because we are not Christians it’s because of people like you. We are sick of your name calling and demonizing those of us that don’t see your point of view. There are many of us who have a problem with the depth that the Episcopal Church has emersed itself into politics. When we are gone only you will be left with those like you. Christianity is a religion of acceptance not exclusion. Take a look into yourself before criticizing others.

    5. margaret jones says:

      Any time we help others in our community, be it Indians in the S.W., or refugees, etc.
      we are doing “Gods Work”! – Blessings to those who see the large picture as our
      Christ would have us do. Politics is not what is at stake here – clean water, for all,
      a decent way of life for all – these are moral values and our dear Episcopal church
      has for the most part stood by these morals. Thanks be to God. I am proud to
      be Episcopalian for this very reason,

  2. Daniel Jarvis says:

    it is almost unimaginable the amount of harm this prez will do…almost, except to those who know what depths evil can go to. One might hope that these guys will over reach, but that is problematic….the Beast is very hard to beat. Im sure there were those in Germany, back in the day, that thought ‘surely , it wont get as bad as can be’. Thanks to the majority of american christians, we are about to find out.

    jan 20th national patriotic devotion day…wow, how facist of you

    1. Kilty Maoris says:

      At last, we have a man who will lead and not take any fake information from these anarchists and rabble rousers. They have gotten all the money they can from the government and now they try a new tactic. Well, there is a new sheriff in town and he and his pardners mean business.

  3. Donald Heacock says:

    Working men & women are despised by the Democrat Party. I belonged but no more. . .I pray it won’t happen in my churxhh .

    1. Kilty Maoris says:

      Smart move. Welcome to prosperity and a real life.

    2. elena laporosa says:

      This is the time of “The Jesus Movement”. When was the last time you went to church?? Most folks I worship with are working folks, both blur and white collar. And we have social programs for the less advantaged. are

  4. Pjcabbiness says:

    This nation is finally moving in the right direction! Thank you Lord.

  5. Terry Francis says:

    Michael Staley, let me first say that I’m a conservative who did not vote for Trump. Having said that I find your judgmental attitude toward people like Stephen who choose not to get on board the leftward leaning dump Trump bandwagon disturbing. True TEC should not be a country club, but it also shouldn’t be just another wing of the DNC. Who are you to accuse people like Stephen of being less of a Christian because he chooses not to be involved in these activities. That’s about as arrogant and un-Christian as it gets! As for doing holy work, many people have different definitions as to what holy work consists of. To you it means resisting Trump policies by any means necessary. If a Christian who is pro life chooses to picket a Planned Parenthood facility or an abortion clinic would you consider that holy work? Of course not. Instead you would probably condemn it. As a Christian you need to stop looking down on people who don’t agree with your views Michael. Our Lord and Savior doesn’t love you one iota more than He does people like Stephen.

    1. Michael J. Staley says:

      Hi Terry,
      Let’s set the record straight: I didn’t say TEC should become another wing of the DNC, that Stephen has to make DAPL or Keystone XL (or the environment) as his own issues, or that Jesus loves me more than Stephen or anyone else because of the issues we take on individually or as a church. You said those things, not me. Further, I’m keenly aware that Christians embrace issues from different perspectives that often are in conflict.

      What I am saying is that the church has an obligation to be politically engaged. I don’t know what Stephen’s definition of “God’s work” is, but I do know that advocating for those whose rights are impinged upon, and for the right use of the environment is holy work. Yes, we must feed the hungry, but we also must work against a system that perpetuates hunger. I’m making an assumption here, and I hope not unfairly, but Stephen’s definition of God’s work seems to be focus on serving food and providing shelter, meanwhile staying out of politics. What I’m saying is that we must do both.

      1. mike geibel says:

        You’re entitled to your political beliefs, but to cloak leftist activism as God’s “holy work” is rather presumptuous. I guess God speaks directly to you, and you have received a personal message that God doesn’t want an oil pipeline.

        The Episcopalian leadership has turned political, which is the reason disaffected members like myself have left the Episcopal Church. There is no leftist or political correctness issue that the Church does not weigh in on. To paraphrase the words of Huckleberry Finn, “I’ve seen the people who say they are going to heaven, and if they are going to be there, I don’t think I’ll try for it.”

        The Comments to this article, as well as other articles on ENS, reflect the disharmony and divisions caused by the actions of the Episcopal Church and its intolerance for anything that is not in line with its leftist agenda. Rather than call to resist, riot and protest, the call should be for unity, reconciliation and dialogue that avoids name-calling and vitriolic personal attacks. As far as good works are concerned, Stephen’s acts in “serving food and providing shelter” to the poor, which you demean and denigrate, are far more constructive than all of your rants and “holy work” proclamations.

        I have found another Church where I go home on Sundays enlightened rather than angry and frustrated. There is a sign at the door: “Please turn off your cell-phones and leave your umbrellas and politics at the door.”

  6. Jeffrey Jones says:

    Are conservative commentators here implying that the Keystone XL Pipeline, the Dakota Access Pipeline and indigenous rights are left-right issues? It seems to me that these matters should transcend partisan politics. Being a Republican doesn’t mean that you want to wreck nature or run roughshod over indigenous peoples.

  7. Terry Francis says:

    Michael, I appreciate your reply. We all have to follow our hearts regarding how best to serve the Lord. If for you that means getting involved politically , fine. All I ask is that you respect the people who take a more traditional approach. They are not hiding behind stained glass windows any more than you are. They have their own way of expressing their faith, just as you do. And I will leave it at that. Let me wish you in advance a happy Lent.

  8. Arden R Olson says:

    I think we need to get some things straight about the Dakota Access Pipeline so we know what or if we even should protest.
    1. The pipeline does NOT cross any land owned by Standing Rock Sioux. It is ALL on private or federal land.
    2.The tribe WAS consulted dozens of times. The only thing they would accept is termination
    3.More than 50 other tribes DID participate in the process and we consulted
    4.Drinking water is NOT the problem. The drinking water intake was moved years ago 70 miles south of where the pipeline is going.
    5. The pipeline is to be installed 100 feet BELOW the riverbed.
    6. There are dozens of other pipelines of gas, oil, etc upstream already.
    7. The oil is ALREADY being shipped by train or trucks which have more potential to spill than the pipeline.

    This information came from and article in the WSJ 12/7/1016 by Kevin Cramer, North Dakota US Representative

    1. Bill Louis says:

      Thanks Arden for information we will never see on the mainstream media.

    2. Tom Cottrell says:

      Thanks Arden. As an Engineer, I see this happen all the time. To raise awareness, the opposition with the help of the press, develop a narrative that a group is being bullied/marginalizes and reinforcing this notion by challenging the do diligence of the design. The design effort could have followed all the laws and environment concerns and accomplished by faith based individuals but some how they are cursed and the good effort gets buried by the narrative. Basing “holy work” on someone’s narrative and not the facts or issues is troubling. We are all seekers of the God’s truth. Social justice issues seems to bring out division and either/or as opposite to both/and. Has anyone felt that inclusiveness is a buzz word that means think like me.

  9. JF Shinn says:

    ECUSA is clearly and openly left of center politically. That is a given. Interestingly, however, on the one hand we preach the solace of God’s eternal and unknowable plan while on the other we clearly “see” God’s hand in the positions we individually or corporately take. For anyone to claim that the Episcopal communion, or any other group or person, is definitively “doing God’s work” is much better informed than most. We have nothing more than opinions and, mostly, biases. And, we like nothing more than “being right.” If taking a political position makes you feel good or justified, examine it. If it gives you pleasure to oppose politics other than what you wish to identify with, examine it. If the Episcopal community were so righteous as it sometimes postures itself, it would have been on the front lines when the Ten Commandments were drummed out of public life, or when privately sponsored public prayer, and particularly prayer in schools, was declared anathema. Those positions, and many others like them defending the Gospel message, are, in my biased opinion, where the battle is being lost. This pipeline issue is at bottom simply part of the anti-oil crusade. Be anti-oil if you wish, but don’t use a thoroughly vetted public/private construction project as a stalking horse. And keep in mind that the world currently has at least a twenty-year forward need for fossil fuel supplies, even if useable large-scale alternate propulsion methodologies were uncovered today. Continue to develop the cleaner energy technologies – I’m certainly for that. But don’t forget the fuel tanks of those indigenous tribesmen’s pickup trucks or vital economic impact of long-haul truckers as you create more and more expensive gasoline and diesel fuel, or, for that matter, jet fuel the next time you board an airplane to go the a church conclave to demonstrate “doing God’s work.”

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