An estimated crowd of 1,500 protesters gathered outside the White House on six hours’ notice yesterday, after U.S. President Donald Trump signed executive orders to reverse his predecessor’s rejection of the hotly-contested Keystone XL oil pipeline and “expedite” the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“Both the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines will never be completed, no matter what President Trump and his oil-soaked cabinet try to do,” writes Oil Change International Campaigns Director David Turnbull. “We stopped Keystone XL and Dakota Access before, and we’ll do it again. These are fights Trump and his bullies won’t win.”
“We will not go away,” adds Rachel Emma Goldstein, campaign associate at the Wind Energy Foundation. “Welcome to your fourth day.”
Goldstein, one of the organizers behind the impromptu rally, recounts that day in a Facebook post that appeared late last night.
“This morning at 10:45 AM, 15 minutes before Trump signed executive orders to approve #keystoneXL and #dakotaaccesspipeline, I was chatting with some demoralized friends as we schemed up how we could fight back. We wondered if we could get a group of 12ish people together to do something in resistance this evening,” she writes.
“We threw a Facebook event up at 11:30 AM. Within an hour, we had 300 attendees. Around 5 PM, 1500+ people, some veteran activists and some brand new to political spaces, turned out for a beautiful display of love and resistance. Today was an incredible show of people power as we stood with Indigenous leaders and made it clear that we will not let Trump ruin our country or our planet.”
Yesterday’s news captured the details of the White House action. “Trump’s order on the Dakota Access pipeline directs the Army Corps of Engineers to ‘review and approve in an expedited manner, to the extent permitted by law,’” the Washington Post reports. “His order for the Keystone XL project ‘invites’ the company to ‘re-submit its application.’”
Another order contained a “decree that American steel should be used for pipelines built in the United States,” a condition that would violate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Reuters reports. “Trump also signed an action to expedite environmental review and approval of high-priority infrastructure projects.”
Canada’s ministers of natural resources and foreign affairs both welcomed the news. “My reaction is that it would be very positive for Canada,” Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr told reporters. He said the executive orders represented “4,500 construction jobs and a deepening of the relationship across the border on the energy file.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, noting that “I’m now a Toronto MP but I’m an Albertan,” called the president’s executive order “a great decision for Canada and Alberta. The province needs jobs.”
In a statement reported by NBC News, Greenpeace Executive Director Annie Leonard pledged continued resistance to both pipelines. “Keystone, the Dakota Access Pipeline, and fossil fuel infrastructure projects like them will only make billionaires richer and make the rest of us suffer,” Leonard said. “We will resist this with all of our power and we will continue to build the future the world wants to see.”
The 1,800-kilometre Keystone XL pipeline was designed to be part of Calgary-based TransCanada’s network for delivering diluted tar sands/oil sands bitumen from Canada to refineries and ports along the U.S. Gulf Coast, and in Illinois. Former President Barack Obama rejected the company’s application for a permit in November 2015, saying it “would not serve the national interests of the United States.”
In the wake of Obama’s decision, TransCanada filed a suit against the United States under NAFTA’s investor-protection terms, claiming $15 billion in compensation for the declined permit. The company has said it would be interested in reviving the project under a new administration. However, Trump in the past has said that his price for breathing new life into Keystone would be a 25% share in its profits for the U.S. government. This week he again threatened “to renegotiate some of the terms” of the project.
Nonetheless, shares in TransCanada “climbed as much as 2.9% to $64.36,” the Financial Post reports. “Energy Transfer Equity LP and Energy Transfer Partners LP, the developers of the Dakota project, climbed as much as 4% and 2.4%, respectively.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet Trump within the next 30 days, the White House confirmed this week, primarily to discuss changes to NAFTA. The 25-year-old agreement contains both the provisions that TransCanada sued under, and a prohibition on the sort of national content requirement that the U.S. president’s executive order would institute.