Environmentalists across the country took to the streets yesterday (January 24) after President Donald Trump signed four presidential memoranda and one executive order to pursue fossil fuel projects, including the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines.
Activists were most energized by the memoranda supporting the two pipelines—battles former President Barack Obama’s administration eventually respected by rejecting the pipelines. This administration has made clear that they disagree.
As Daniel Estrin, who serves as the legal director for the environmental organization Waterkeeper Alliance, said to Colorlines: “The previous administration was much more concerned about what the public thought and agreed with concerns many citizens have about climate change and environmental impacts. With the new administration, they’ve been very clear that they disagree with some of those policies held by the Obama administration.”
The memorandum on the Dakota Access Pipeline directs the Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw its December memo where it laid out its decision to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The administration essentially wants the Corps to, as Estrin put it, “pretend that everything that happened from July to December didn’t happen,” and just complete the final section of the pipeline, which will go through the Lake Oahe crossing of the Missouri River.
Experts worried this would happen when the Corps made its December decision to deny the Lake Oahe easement near the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation. And it’s one that Estrin wrote about in a blog post.
One of Estrin’s biggest concerns was that the Corps called for an EIS without withdrawing or retracting its previous Environment Assessment or Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), which goes against standard protocol. “I’m concerned that the Corps’ attempt to have it both ways here – i.e., to leave the FONSI in place, while at the same time purporting to require preparation of an EIS – leaves the status of the Corps’ Decision in ‘limbo’ and vulnerable to legal challenge by Energy Transfer Partners,” he wrote.
Estrin goes on:
[T]he discretionary nature of the Corps’ Decision, which is expressed as a “judgment” call by the Assistant Secretary for Civil Works, may leave it open for reconsideration and potential reversal by the Corps under the new presidential administration that will take power on January 20. Such a reversal might require no more than another memorandum decision reaching a different conclusion upon further consideration. While such a reversal might ultimately be found by a court to be “arbitrary and capricious” (the legal standard under which the legality of most agency actions is measured), the discretionary nature of the Corps’ Decision, and the odd FONSI-EIS dichotomy discussed above, may ultimately render the decision unviable.
Estrin is also concerned over those who will be on the frontlines. Trump’s law-and-order stance has Estrin worried that Morton County Sheriff’s Department may escalate its policing methods.
In the meantime, people in Seattle, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and New York are showing that they stand with #NoDAPL. In Seattle, water protectors occupied a branch of Wells Fargo, one of the banks that is funding the crude oil project and a target of the movement’s divestment campaign. See images and videos of actions below, including Greenpeace activists dropping a huge “RESIST” banner above the White House earlier today (January 25).
— Ben Cushing (@bmcushing) January 24, 2017
— Alejandro Alvarez (@aletweetsnews) January 24, 2017
— Mike Hudema (@MikeHudema) January 25, 2017
New York City
— TheAnonMessage (@TheAnonnMessage) January 25, 2017
— Ruth Hopkins (@RuthHHopkins) January 25, 2017
— Kristen Velloza (@kristenvelloza) January 25, 2017
— Jamie Carroll (@seattleyogajam) January 25, 2017
— Matt Remle (@wakiyan7) January 25, 2017
— Daniel Fretto (@danielfretto) January 25, 2017
— RΞVOLUTION LA (@RevolutionInLA) January 25, 2017
— Davut Demircan (@dvtdmrcn) January 25, 2017
— melissa (@missmeliii) January 25, 2017