Conservation groups argue that the pipelines would move oil harvested through ‘dirty’ extraction methods from oil sands and shale formations.
The Obama Administration opposed both projects, saying that they represented a step backward in ending our dependence on carbon-based energy.
President Trump told reporters during the signing at the White House that the Keystone XL pipeline would create 28,000 jobs.
The pen strokes reversed the course of former President Barack Obama’s administration, which opposed the projects on the grounds that they furthered U.S.’s dependence on carbon-based energy and the country’s contributions to climate change.
The Dakota Pipeline would run 1,172 miles (1,886 kilometers) from the a set of shale formations in North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to its terminus in Patoka, Illinois. TransCanada, the company trying to build the Keystone XL pipeline, said it will stretch 1,179 miles (1,897 kilometers) from Hardisty, Alberta, in Canada through Montana and South Dakota to Steele City, Nebraska.
Signing orders to move forward with the construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines in the Oval Office. pic.twitter.com/OErGmbBvYK
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 24, 2017
Proponents argue that the pipelines provide a safer and more environmentally friendly method of transport than truck or rail. In addition, backers contend that the projects are bringing in jobs and tax revenue.
As Trump was signing the executive order authorizing continued negotiations for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, he said the project would create 28,000 “great construction jobs.” However, Reuters reported that a 2014 State Department study predicted it would net 3,900 construction jobs.
Trump also signed another executive order that the pipelines should be built with American-made steel. “We build our own pipeline. We will build our own pipes, like we used to in the old days,” Trump said.
But opponents argue that harvesting crude oil from the oil sands in Alberta and the shale formations in Bakken, North Dakota, is good for neither the environment nor the economy.
“Trump claims he’s a good businessman,” writes Sierra Club’s executive director Michael Brune on the environmental website EcoWatch, “yet he’s encouraging dirty, dangerous tar sands development when clean energy is growing faster, producing more jobs and has a real future.” Brune also writes that Trump was an investor in Energy Transfer Partners, the Texas-based company working on the Dakota Access pipeline.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, “Extracting and converting tar sands into usable fuel is a hugely expensive energy- and water-intensive endeavor that involves strip mining giant swaths of land and creating loads of toxic waste and air and water pollution.” The Keystone XL pipeline would move around 800,000 barrels of oil a day from the Canadian oil sands to Houston and Nederland, Texas, on the Gulf of Mexico.
Environmental activists and American Indian tribes have fought the pipelines’ construction, the latter on the grounds that the Dakota Access pipeline would pollute the water source for the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and disrupt important cultural sites. On Jan. 20, the tribal council resolved to close the protest camps to allow for important commuter roads to be reopened, reported the Bismarck Tribune.
But nationally, conservation groups have vowed to continue to fight the construction projects.
“The Keystone pipeline was rejected because it was not in the country’s interest and the environmental review of the Dakota Access Pipeline was ordered because of the threats it poses to the Standing Rock Sioux,” Brune writes. “Nothing has changed. These pipelines were a bad idea then and they’re a bad idea now.”