SD delegation backs Trump’s support of oil pipelines

South Dakota's most senior congressional lawmaker and one of the state's most prominent environmental activists remain at odds regarding President Donald Trump's action to push two major oil pipeline projects forward.

Construction equipment sits near a Dakota Access Pipeline construction site off County Road 135 near the town of Cannon Ball, N.D., Oct. 30, 2016. REUTERS/Josh Morgan
Construction equipment sits near a Dakota Access Pipeline construction site off County Road 135 near the town of Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S., October 30, 2016. REUTERS/Josh Morgan

South Dakota’s most senior congressional lawmaker and one of the state’s most prominent environmental activists remain at odds regarding President Donald Trump’s action to push two major oil pipeline projects forward.

On Tuesday, Trump signed executive orders to advance the construction of the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, both of which run through South Dakota soil. The 1,134-mile Dakota Access pipeline would run through two nearby counties - McCook and Miner - while the 1,179-mile Keystone XL pipeline would run through Jones, Lyman and Tripp counties.

Shortly after Trump’s executive actions were signed to accelerate the two major oil pipeline projects, U.S. Sen. John Thune was quick to file a statement of support.

“For eight years, former President Obama impeded progress on the Keystone XL pipeline, and in the process crushed thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic investments,” Thune said in a statement Tuesday. “President Trump has taken quick action to free up employment and economic opportunities by making it easier to complete these shovel-ready infrastructure projects.”

Thune also called the pipeline progress a sign of “good things to come” for Americans. And U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds joined Thune in support of the actions hours later, highlighting the energy needs of the nation.


“President Trump understands that pipelines provide an effective and efficient means of transporting natural resources and meeting our country’s energy needs,” Rounds said in a written statement. “Good domestic energy policies include an ‘all of the above’ approach that will strengthen our economy, create jobs and enhance U.S. energy independence.”

Trump told reporters Tuesday that a pipeline project could create 28,000 construction jobs, and he made a decree saying American steel should be used for the project.

And like Rounds and Thune, South Dakota’s U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem offered a handful of benefits of the major pipeline projects.

“The United States must look at every opportunity to increase energy independence if we’re going to expand economic freedom and create a more secure nation,” Noem said in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon. “President Trump‘s actions showcase his commitment to energy independence and I look forward to working with him as we more our country closer to a made-in-American energy supply.”

But at least one South Dakotan who gained notoriety during the mass protest of the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota holds firm against the projects.

Less than one year after an oil spill along the existing Keystone pipeline route dumped 16,800 gallons of oil a couple of counties away in Freeman, Lake Andes resident Faith Spotted Eagle said she wasn’t surprised to hear about Trump’s administrative actions.

“But I think that what surprises us is his total disregard for the whole country of returning back to the fossil fuel industry, which is destroying our earth,” said Spotted Eagle, who earned an Electoral College vote for her efforts supporting the Dakota Access protests. “And so there’s a blatant - I guess - thumbing your nose at the rest of the nation, because this is not just about native people, it goes beyond us to over 17 million water users of the Missouri River.”

Prior to Tuesday’s actions, the future of the two pipelines was up in the air, with Obama’s administration rejecting the construction of the international Keystone XL pipeline and protests leaving the Army Corps of Engineers searching for alternate Dakota Access routes. Dakota Access protestors often repeated concerns the project threatened water sources and Native American cultural sites, an opinion Spotted Eagle reiterated Tuesday morning.


And following Tuesday’s executive orders, Spotted Eagle called for action from the environmentally conscious to rally against the project.

“I think that I would put a call out to those environmentally aware, non-native people that are farmers, ranchers and landowners that might take the time to think about their grandchildren and how the environment and the climate will be affected,” Spotted Eagle said.

While Spotted Eagle and thousands of others recently joined the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota in an attempt to block the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline, several state legislators expressed interest in constructing pipelines as recently as February 2016.

Amid the 2016 South Dakota legislative session, 43 state legislators banded together to support the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would run through approximately 314 miles of South Dakota land. The legislators claimed the construction of the Keystone XL would create 3,000 to 4,000 South Dakota jobs during the construction of the pipeline while generating millions of dollars in property tax revenue.

But rather than focusing on temporary construction jobs, Spotted Eagle recommended people think bigger.

“I think that what’s forefront at their mind is that they’re just worried about jobs no matter what the cost is to the earth,” Spotted Eagle said.


A timeline of the Dakota Access oil pipeline -- The Associated Press
Notable events in the dispute over the four-state, $3.8 billion Dakota Access oil pipeline.


  • December 2014 - Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners applies to the federal government to build the 1,200-mile Dakota Access pipeline to carry North Dakota oil through South Dakota and Iowa to an existing pipeline in Illinois. The pipeline is projected to carry half a million barrels of oil daily. The proposed route skirts the Standing Rock Sioux tribe's reservation and crosses under Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir in North Dakota that serves as the tribe's drinking water source.

  • March 2016 - Iowa regulators approve the pipeline, making it the fourth and final state to grant permission.

  • April 2016 - Opponents establish a camp at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri rivers in southern North Dakota for peaceful protest. Camps in the area would later swell to thousands of people.

  • July 2016 - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers grants pipeline permits at more than 200 water crossings. The Standing Rock Sioux sues a day later. The Cheyenne River Sioux later join the lawsuit as plaintiffs.

  • Aug. 10 - North Dakota authorities make the first arrests of protesters. The total has since surpassed 600, including actress Shailene Woodley and Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein.

  • Sept. 9 - U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg denies an attempt by the Standing Rock Sioux to halt pipeline construction. The same day, the Army, the Department of Justice and the Interior Department declare that construction bordering or under Lake Oahe won't go forward pending further review.

  • Nov. 20, 21 - Authorities use tear gas, rubber bullets and water sprays on protesters who they say assaulted officers with rocks and burning logs at a blockaded bridge, in one of the most violent clashes of the protest. At least 17 protesters are taken to hospitals. One officer was injured when struck in the head with a rock.

  • Dec. 4 - Assistant Army Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy declines to allow the pipeline to be built under Lake Oahe in part because she says alternate routes need to be considered. Energy Transfer Partners calls the decision politically motivated and accuses President Barack Obama's administration of delaying the matter until he leaves office.

  • Jan. 18 - The Army Corps launches a full environmental study of the pipeline's disputed Lake Oahe crossing, a study that could take up to two years. Boasberg, the federal judge, rejects an ETP request to stop the study.

  • Jan. 24, 2017 - President Donald Trump signs executive actions to advance the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline, along with the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

A timeline of the Keystone XL oil pipeline -- The Associated Press
Notable events in the dispute over the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which is slated to run from Canada to U.S. refineries in the Gulf Coast.

  • March 2008 - The U.S. State Department issues a presidential permit for a $5.2 billion Keystone pipeline to transport crude oil.

  • September 2008 - TransCanada files paperwork to expand the existing Keystone pipeline with a new Keystone XL route. The pipeline would extend from Canada's tar sands through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, where it would connect with the existing Keystone pipeline route to carry more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day to specialized refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast.

  • The original Keystone pipeline route runs through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Because the Keystone XL would cross the U.S. border, the State Department must determine whether the project is in the national interest.

  • June 2010 - First Keystone pipeline goes into operation.

  • August 2011 - Then-Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman sends a letter to President Barack Obama asking that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline avoid the Sandhills, an area consisting of fragile, grass-covered sand dunes in western Nebraska.

  • Aug. 26, 2011 - The U.S. State Department issues its final environmental impact statement determining "there would be no significant impacts to most resources along the proposed project corridor."

  • Oct. 15, 2010 - As the permit is reviewed, then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the department is "inclined" to approve project. The project begins to galvanize the environmental movement to pressure the Obama administration to act on climate change. Republicans and other project supporters argue the project will create jobs and help the economy.

  • November 2011 - Amid growing public resistance to the Keystone XL, Heineman calls lawmakers into a special session to address environmental concerns in Nebraska. Lawmakers approve a pipeline siting law that requires companies to apply through an independent state commission. Obama announces a delay, pushing off the decision until after his re-election campaign. His administration says other potential routes through Nebraska need to be studied.

  • Dec. 23, 2011 - Congress tries to force Obama's hand by passing legislation requiring approval of the Keystone XL pipeline within 60 days unless the president determines the project does not serve the national interest. Weeks later, Obama rejected the application but allowed TransCanada to re-apply.

  • April 2012 - Nebraska lawmakers rewrite the pipeline law to give the governor the power to approve the Keystone XL route through the state.

  • May 4, 2012 - TransCanada reapplies and restarts the federal review process.

  • March 1, 2013 - The State Department issues an environmental review that raises no major objections to the Keystone XL oil pipeline and says other options to get oil from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries are worse for climate change.

  • June 25, 2013 - Obama declares he will only approve the project if it doesn't worsen carbon pollution. "Our national interest would be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution," Obama says in a speech declaring that fighting climate change will be a major priority his second term.

  • Jan. 31, 2014 - The State Department releases another final environmental impact statement, again voicing no major environmental objections to the project.

  • Feb. 19, 2014 - A Nebraska judge overturns the state law that allowed the pipeline, throwing the project into legal limbo.

  • April 18, 2014 - The State Department announces it is again delaying its review, citing the legal dispute over the Nebraska route.

  • January 2015 - TransCanada files legal papers in nine Nebraska counties to invoke eminent domain for the land that's needed to construct, operate and maintain the pipeline.

  • Feb. 11, 2015 - Congress again tries to push the Obama administration to decide on the permit by passing legislation forcing the decision and sending it to the White House. Obama vetoes the bill days later.

  • Sept. 22, 2015 - Clinton, now seeking the Democratic nomination for president, says she opposes construction of the Keystone pipeline.

  • Nov. 2, 2015 - As it appears increasingly likely that Obama will reject the pipeline, TransCanada asks the administration to suspend the company's application. The State Department reviews the request for a day, and then rejects it.

  • Nov. 6, 2015 - Obama announces he is rejecting the permit to build the Keystone pipeline. The project is not in the national interest, he says. "America is now a global leader when it comes to taking serious action to fight climate change. And frankly, approving this project would have undercut that global leadership," he says.

  • June 2016 - TransCanada seeks $15 billion in damages from the federal government in response to the Obama administration rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline.

  • Jan. 24, 2017 - President Donald Trump signs executive actions to advance the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, along with the four-state Dakota Access oil pipeline.

Pipes for underground fuel transport for TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline lie in a field in Gascoyne, N.D., on April 23, 2013. A U.S. State Department study on the environmental impact of the Keystone XL oil pipeline will not represent a final decision on whether the United States will allow the project to go forward, White House spokesman Jay Carney said on January 31, 2014. REUTERS/Nathan VanderKlippe

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