The shock election of real estate mogul and reality television star Donald J. Trump to the presidency of the United States represents a major setback for the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.
Financial disclosure forms provided to the Federal Election Commission by Trump during his bid for the presidency show the president-elect to have invested in Energy Transfer Partners, the company responsible for the proposed pipeline, according to U.K. newspaper The Guardian.
The chief executive of Energy Transfer Partners, Kelcy Warren, has also donated a total of US$103,000 to Trump’s successful campaign directly and through a joint fundraising committee named the Trump Victory Fund.
Prior to the election, the Obama administration had demonstrated a desire to seek compromise between North Dakota’s self-described ‘water protectors’ and the pipeline’s developers.
The administration had issued a request to Energy Transfer Partners to stop construction of the pipeline while discussions were held with tribal authorities. The possibility of altering the proposed route of the pipeline to avoid sacred grounds and natural resource reserves was also mooted.
Such plans appear to be unlikely given Trump’s recent victory.
Although the Trump campaign’s America First’ energy plan promises to ‘conserve our natural habitats, reserves, and resources,’ it appears to herald a policy of energy independence through heightened exploitation of domestic reserves.
Included in the plan are promises to ‘unleash America’s $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years in clean coal reserves’ and to ‘open onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands, eliminate moratorium on coal leasing, and open shale energy deposits’.
Such a policy and Trump’s associated courting of blue-collar manufacturing voters appears to signal a tough pro-industry administration which is unlikely to pay great heed to environmental and indigenous causes.
In contrast, the now-defeated Clinton campaign had recently issued a cautious statement regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline which, although neutral in tone, appeared to signal a more moderate and environmentally conscious approach to the dispute:
'Secretary Clinton has been clear that she thinks all voices should be heard and all views considered in federal infrastructure projects. Now, all of the parties involved—including the federal government, the pipeline company and contractors, the state of North Dakota, and the tribes—need to find a path forward that serves the broadest public interest.'
Although the statement showed a clear disinclination to wade into the controversy during a hard-fought election cycle, it is likely her administration would have followed president Obama’s lead in seeking to re-route the pipeline. Clinton has repeatedly framed her candidacy as an extension of Obama’s.
The Dakota Access Pipeline is a US$3.8 billion project which aims to carry oil from North Dakota to Illinois. The construction of the pipeline has inspired a national and global indigenous protest movement due to its proximity to Standing Rock Sioux reservation sacred lands and water resources.