The surprising victory by Native American and environmental groups in September to delay the Dakota Access Pipeline may turn out to be short-lived, after Donald Trump’s unexpected win in the U.S. presidential election.
Trump backs measures to speed energy industry development and upgrade the country’s oil and gas infrastructure. He has not commented specifically on the $3.7 billion Dakota Access line but has said he would seek to revive another controversial pipeline, the Keystone XL line. That project, which would pump oil from Canada through Nebraska, was rejected in 2014 by the Obama administration.
The 1,172-mile (1,885 km) line was planned to run from North Dakota’s Bakken shale region to Illinois, but protests from environmental activists and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North Dakota galvanized the Obama administration to delay construction to ensure Native American concerns about the line’s route were properly addressed.
One day after Trump’s victory, Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II said the results show “that we as a country have so much work to do.” He did not mention Trump in his statement to Reuters, instead saying President Barack Obama could still halt the pipeline.
“We must strengthen our resolve to protect the water, pray together for understanding, and pour our hearts and minds into the future of all our children,” he said.
It is not clear now whether Dakota Access would be rerouted or piped under the sensitive watershed, which the tribe considers sacred.
Kelcy Warren, chief executive officer of Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the pipeline, said a Trump presidency was a good thing.
“I view the results of last night’s election as favorable not only for our project, but for future infrastructure projects that have been vetted and reviewed as thoroughly as ours has been,” Warren said on Wednesday in a statement emailed to Reuters.
Representative Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, a Trump energy adviser, said he expects the Obama administration to approve the permit because the federal government is “out of legal reasons” not to allow the line to proceed, saying he did not think Trump “would have to weigh in with an opinion on this.”
“We’re especially hopeful that the pipeline approval process will be allowed to work without political interferences. We saw both Keystone XL and DAPL, which passed their NEPA review, get blocked for unrelated political reasons,” said John Stoody, vice president of government and public relations for the Association of Oil Pipe Lines, referring to the National Environmental Policy Act review.