1 Year After Trump’s Approval, Where Keystone XL, Dakota Pipelines Stand
Chris White /
It’s been a little more than a year since President Donald Trump approved the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines amid concerns the projects would destroy the environment.
Trump signed an executive order in January 2017, approving both pipelines as activists claimed they would desecrate the land. Keystone XL is getting bogged down in regulatory morass, but the so-called DAPL is humming along, producing hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil per day.
Former President Barack Obama rejected DAPL before leaving office in 2016 and blocked Keystone XL in early 2015, claiming the Canadian line was unnecessary and hurt the U.S.’ credibility as a climate crusader. Trump overturned both orders, giving DAPL immediate approval and XL permission once local entities okay construction on the Keystone extension.
DAPL, which crosses underneath the Missouri River in North Dakota, began pumping oil in May 2017 and has caused oil production in North Dakota to skyrocket—reaching nearly 1.2 million barrels of crude oil produced per day in October.
The state also reported 60 active drilling rigs in April—more than double the number that were operational in May 2016. North Dakota launched 14,450 producing wells, the highest on record.
Officials also anticipate as much as $250 million in additional revenues during the 2018 budget term, surpassing the state treasury’s expectations. Increased energy production provided significant tax revenues for the state, with North Dakota’s Legacy Fund surpassing $5 billion in May. Oil production from DAPL was the catalyst for the improved fortunes, officials believe.
The project would not have seen completion were it not for Trump’s intervention. American Indian groups and environmentalists initially helped prod Obama into nixing the $3.8 billion pipeline. Members of Standing Rock Sioux, for example, believed the multibillion-dollar pipeline risked poisoning the tribe’s water supply and treading on sacred land, despite assessments concluding the DAPL was safe and largely avoided sensitive areas.
Activists ramped-up their anti-DAPL crusade shortly after Trump was elected. Two environmentalists with a long history of engaging in eco-terrorism were arrested in July 2017 for allegedly using blowtorches to burn heavy equipment on the pipeline route in North Iowa.
Keystone XL has seen similar reactions but has not yet received the go-ahead to begin construction.
TransCanada has dealt with years of delays and stonewalling. The Calgary-based company was relatively unknown until it proposed extending Canada’s oil pipeline system TransCanada projects. Keystone’s extension, which is expected to cost around $8 billion, will transport up to 830,000 barrels of crude a day from Alberta through Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska.
Keystone XL has also been bogged down in significant legal quagmires. Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Sierra Club, among others, initiated a lawsuit in March 2017, claiming Trump’s approval was unlawful. Their case is being held in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana.
But things could be looking up for TransCanada. The company already received enough commitments from oil companies to extend the pipeline, it announced in January. TransCanada believes work on the controversial project could begin in 2019.
TransCanada still needs easements from landowners in Nebraska and must secure water-crossing permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and land rights and construction approvals from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
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