President Donald Trump on 24 January 2017 signed executive orders to move forward construction on Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, two controversial projects that had become the focal points of protests over the environment and Native American rights.
Thousands of protesters had camped out with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in Cannonball, North Dakota, since April 2016 to oppose the Dakota Access project (DAPL). On 4 December 2016, the Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the land, denied an easement needed by the energy company, ETS, to complete the pipeline's construction.
Jan Hasselman, an attorney representing the tribe, told us "there will certainly be litigation" in response to the executive order.
In 2015, former President Barack Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, which like DAPL project had been the source of protests nationwide:
Former President Barack Obama rejected the proposed 1,179-mile pipeline in 2015, arguing that it would undercut American leadership in curbing the reliance on carbon energy. Mr. Trump signed a document clearing the way to government approval of the pipeline as well as for the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota.
Conflict of interest questions had been raised about President Trump's impartiality with DAPL because he owned stock in the project, although his spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, told reporters in December 2016 that he had sold all his shares:
The sale would eliminate one possible conflict of interest for Trump, who has vowed to speed up permits for oil and gas pipelines in order to spur more oil and gas development in the United States. The Dakota Access pipeline, which is largely finished, would carry as many as 570,000 barrels a day of shale oil 1,170 miles from western North Dakota to pipeline connections in Illinois.
Hicks did not respond to our inquiry asking whether President Trump still holds any financial stakes in the project. We also haven't received a response to our most recent inquiry to ETS, but the company has remained committed to the current route and said in previous correspondence that the pipeline was safe.
Michael A. Wood, Jr., who in December 2016 raised more than $1 million and organized roughly 4,500 veterans to travel to the Standing Rock reservation in a protest against the pipeline, said on 24 January 2017 that he'd do it all over again if the Sioux asked for his help.
"You're on notice @POTUS," he tweeted. "The last one was smart. You will have to go through 10s of thousands of vets & guess what? Republicans like us."