Native Americans Fight Trump’s Push For Pipelines Amid Crippling Floods

Native American tribes living in South Dakota have been plagued with devastating flooding due to Winter Storm Wesley, while simultaneously continuing their fight against the Keystone XL pipeline. The state has reckoned with multiple “bomb cyclones,” which have produced “historic” amounts of snow.

Tribal leaders have called on President Donald Trump to cease efforts to speed up construction of the pipeline, and instead focus on the Native communities hardest affected by flooding. Oglala Sioux Tribal Chair Julian Bear Runner told The Intercept that instead of declaring national emergencies “that don’t exist,” the president should worry about the ones that do. “I call upon him to send us help before lives are further disrupted,” he said.

On April 5, Trump issued a presidential permit allowing the pipeline to cross the Canadian border in the United States, The Associated Press reported. The president said the new permit would replace one granted in March 2017. “Trump’s decision to ram KXL through while our families suffer feels like being kicked while we’re down,” Bear Runner said.

The Oglala Sioux Tribe estimates that 1,500 people have been displaced due to the storm and 500 people do not have access to potable water, The Intercept reported. Waniya Locke, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux, estimated that 300 people have been displaced in their community. The Oglala Sioux and Standing Rock Sioux tribes did not immediately answer The North Star’s questions regarding the storm or their ongoing fight against the pipeline.

The Keystone project was temporarily blocked in November by a federal judge, who said the administration had not fully considered the possibility of oil spills and other impacts, the AP noted. US District Judge Brian Morris ordered a new environmental review of the pipeline. The Trump administration announced two new executive orders, which aimed to open up additional pipelines to supply oil and gas to the United States. According to CNN Business, the executive orders could allow the federal government to exert more control over states when approving energy projects.

Several states, including New York, have used the Clean Water Act to reject sections of pipelines due to environmental impacts. Trump officials, however, claim there are “a lot of problems” with the way states are interpreting the Clean Water Act.

Native communities are also concerned about the environmental impacts that these pipelines will have on their lands. The Sioux have repeatedly raised concerns that the tar sands pipeline will leak and contaminate the reservations’ rivers and waterways. In 2016, hundreds of Native American protesters gathered in North Dakota to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which was set to run within a half-mile of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. The Obama administration denied a key permit for the pipeline just months before the Trump administration reversed the decision and approved construction, NPR reported.

The fight against the Trump administration’s push for additional pipelines has continued in the two years since the massive Standing Rock protests. Native Americans maintain that these pipelines not only pose a threat to their drinking water, but that continued extraction and use of fossil fuels will cause further climate change. “The use of fossil fuels has led to this extraordinary weather event and many other disasters,” Bear Runner told The Intercept. “Keystone XL will only continue to exacerbate the cycle of destruction in the future.”

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.