The day after Donald J Trump fired the first salvos in his war against the EPA and others, he delivered on his promise to double down on fossil fuels with the approval of two pipelines. On Tuesday, January 24th, Trump signed Executive Orders that overturn the Obama administration’s decision on the Keystone XL (KXL) and the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL). This authorizes TransCanada Pipelines to move forward with the 1,179-mile KXL and Energy Transfer Partners can also proceed with the 1,172-mile DAPL.
This is a blow for environmentalists and indigenous people who had fought hard to shut down the KXL and DAPL. Keystone was killed by President Barack Obama after years of protests and DAPL was stalled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the face of massive protests by indigenous people led by the Standing Rock Sioux.
Trump also signed an EO that will eliminate environmental regulations associated with the permitting process.
There are massive environmental costs associated with pipelines. They inevitably spill (click here to see a partial summary of oil spills in 2016). Even more importantly, they contribute climate change causing greenhouse gasses (GHGs) to the atmosphere at a time when we cannot afford further increases (we are currently 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial norms and scientists conservatively estimate that we cannot afford to go beyond 2 degrees Celsius).
DAPL will ferry 570,000 barrels of dirty shale oil from North Dakota to the Gulf Coast. The pipeline imperils the drinking water of 17 million people. The emissions from this pipeline are equivalent to 30 coal plants. According to Oil Change International DAPL will create “101.4 million metric tons of CO2e per year. These emissions are equivalent to 29.5 typical U.S. coal plants or the average emissions of 21.4 million U.S. passenger vehicles.”
Each day the KXL can transport 830,000 barrels of some of the dirtiest oil on Earth. The Friends of the Earth reports that the GHGs associated with this pipeline is equivalent to putting 5.6 million new cars on the roads.
The promised reopening of NAFTA will complicate the KXL which will ferry oil from Alberta’s tar sands to Texas. Because it crosses a state boundary the permitting process is largely under state department control. However, there are questions as to the viability of the pipeline with oil prices seemingly stuck below $60 a barrel.
More protests and lawsuits can be expected to try to stop this administration from moving forward with pipelines that are harmful to this and future generations.
As explained Bill McKibben,
“This is not a done deal. The last time around, TransCanada was so confident they literally mowed the strip where they planned to build the pipeline before people power stopped them. People will mobilize again.”
The DAPL protest has been called off with Sioux leaders looking to fight the decisions in the courts. It will also take time for the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a full environmental assessment as required by law. But this could be overcome if the Army issues and easement.
Former Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders summed up the situation as follows:
“Millions of people came together all over this country to stop the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines and say we must transform our energy system away from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Today, President Trump ignored the voices of millions and put the short-term profits of the fossil fuel industry ahead of the future of our planet.”
Dakota Access Pipeline Halted by Government Despite Judges Ruling (Videos)
The Dakota Access and Protest that Kills Pipelines
TransCanada’s Keystone is Spewing Crude Adding Fuel to Pipeline Protests
A Brief Review of the Keystone XL Saga
Why the Keystone XL Pipedream Must Die
Republicans Keep Pushing Keystone XL Pipeline
Reasons Why the Keystone XL is a Pipedream
Keystone XL will Emit 4 Times More Pollution than Originally Thought
Buying Support for the Keystone XL
Business Leaders, Scientists, Economists and Ordinary People Reject the Keystone XL
Comparison of the Keystone XL and Renewable Energy
How Come the Keystone XL is so Hard to Kill