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President Trump signs orders to expedite Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines

25 January 2017

President Donald Trump signed two executive orders on January 24 to advance the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline projects. Keystone XL was scrapped in 2015 by former President Barack Obama and the US Army Corps of Engineers had withdrawn permission for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) to follow its originally planned route in the face of fierce opposition from Native American tribes.

Dakota Access Pipeline - Image: Shutterstock
Dakota Access Pipeline - Image: Shutterstock

The 1,900km Keystone XL pipeline would move 830,000 barrels per day of oil sands crude from Hardisty, Alberta, across the US border to Steele City, Nebraska. The $6.1 billion project is backed by TransCanada, Canada's second largest pipeline company. It requires a Presidential Certificate to allow the line to cross the border, which TransCanada first applied for in 2008.

Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) is behind the 1,885km DAPL project, a $3.8 billion 570,000-barrel-per-day pipeline delivering crude from North Dakota’s Bakken shale fields to Patoka, Illinois. It is largely built, but for a section under the Missouri River which has been the scene of protests by the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribes and environmental groups who say it threatens water resources and sacred Native American sites.

"The regulatory process in this country has become a tangled up mess," Trump said. He added that all US pipelines should in future use only US-made steel.

Trump campaigned on promises to increase domestic energy production. US crude imports have fallen dramatically in recent years as domestic production has boomed, but the world's largest oil consumer still relies heavily on imports.

In a statement on January 24 the Standing Rock Sioux said they would fight the orders.

"Americans know this pipeline was unfairly rerouted towards our nation and without our consent. The existing pipeline route risks infringing on our treaty rights, contaminating our water and the water of 17 million Americans downstream," said Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock tribe.

But North Dakota Petroleum Council president Ron Ness, representing the state’s oil producers, said: "We think this is a great step forward for energy security in America."

Canadian Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr said in Calgary that Keystone XL has all the regulatory approvals it needs in Canada, and that the project would be "very positive for Canada."

Trump said that Keystone XL would create 28,000 jobs, but a 2014 State Department environmental study estimated the project would create 3,900 construction jobs and 35 permanent jobs.

According to Reuters, Trump owned ETP stock until at least mid-2016, and ETP's chief executive Kelcy Warren donated $100,000 to his campaign.

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