For many months, we watched as water protectors and activists protested against the Dakota Access Pipeline. And in early December, it seemed like the conflict at Standing Rock had ended when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers halted the project in order to explore alternate routes. But for those fighting against the pipeline, it was not enough to stop the construction — what they ultimately wanted was for the project to be killed. And now it's easy to see why: President Trump just signed an executive order that would advance the construction of the project and Keystone XL pipeline. "From now on we are going to start making pipelines in the United States," the president said. The move threatens to undo President Obama's environmental legacy, and it's likely that it will be met with pushback from environmental activists. Ahead, we break down what his executive action means — and what could happen next.
What does the executive order do?Trump's executive action basically clears the way for the pipelines to get approval from the government. It also shows that the new administration is favoring the expansion of energy infrastructure over continuing the environmental policies set by the Obama administration. In the case of the Dakota Access pipeline, the order instructed the Army Corps of Engineers to "review and approve [the project] in an expedited manner, to the extent permitted by law." This would be a defeat for the Native American tribes and environmental activists who for months fought against the $3.8 billion project because it threatened Standing Rock's water resources and sacred sites. For the Keystone XL pipeline, Trump "invites" the TransCanada corporation to "re-submit its application." This would be a huge blow for the people who fought for more than seven years against the project, a transnational pipeline that would extend from Canada to the Gulf Coast. The venture was killed by President Obama in 2015 because it would contribute to climate change and deter American efforts to reach a global deal addressing this issue.
After signing his order, Trump told reporters that they would "renegotiate some of the terms" of the Keystone construction. He added if they get the pipeline built, they could add a "lot of jobs, 28,000 jobs, great construction."