As the weekend was coming to a close I was mentally budgeting time and space for this week’s articles. Suddenly a newsflash came across that changed a lot of planning and, at least temporarily, for the positive. Sunday the Army Corps of Engineers announced it was declining the request for an easement to build part of the Dakota Access Pipeline under Lake Oahe which is part of the Missouri River system. The victory may well be temporary but it is, at least in the moment, impactful. Let’s explore.
Energy Transfer Partners in conjunction with several other fossil fuel entities including Phillips 66 is constructing a pipeline to transport crude oil across four states including North Dakota. The current route called for the pipeline to run under the lake which is just upstream from the Standing Rock Sioux nation’s reservation. The Missouri River, (which the lake is part of), is the water source for the reservation. For the last several months the Sioux have been protesting the pipeline. If our recent election hadn’t offered so many outlandish moments that story would have been in the headlines since this summer.
In what made me think of Pinkerton strike breakers and Bull Connor the protests grew and the “establishment” reaction became inhuman. Among other “atrocities” water cannons were used against the non-violent protestors in sub-freezing temperatures.
Call me cynical but I think this is more of a delay than a halt to the pipeline going under the lake. Incoming President Donald Trump has been very proficient at putting flunkies in key positions. He has displayed total disregard for the environment. There is no evidence that he cares about non-Caucasians (in this case Native Americans). Most importantly he is personally invested in the pipeline and so is a major campaign contributor of his. (My readers know the self-financed campaign was little more than another Trump scam.)
Kelcy Warren is the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners which until recently Trump had a $1.5 million dollar stake in. Warren was a significant Trump financier and has been a major Republican donor for years. As of Sunday’s announcement Trump still had a seven figure investment in Phillips 66. It personally costs Trump money if the pipeline is a dead deal or incurs costs in rerouting. What do you think is going to happen?
There are several issues in play here. From an environmental standpoint I want to see America invest in the infrastructure to supply the nation with as much clean, renewable energy as possible; in other words investing in the future. Investing in an energy source that pollutes and is on the path to extinction is simply bad business. Can you see how a project like the pipeline could tie into Trump’s infrastructure plan? It is being built for private profit and under Trump’s plan could receive an 82% tax credit. On this project the tax credit alone is worth over $3.1 billion. That is a lot of taxpayer money to make guys like Trump and Warren richer for which the taxpayers get nothing in return!
From the tax credit alone Trump would effectively get a $1.23 million return on his $1.5 million investment while retaining the entire investment and still theoretically deriving future profits from operating the pipeline. If some Indian reservation doesn’t have clean water someday do you really think Trump cares?
This situation will be interesting to watch in the first months of the Trump presidency. It involves Native American rights and sovereignty along with environmental and energy concerns. I’d say the progressive side is in trouble! For the moment the good guys won and the Obama administration avoided what could have been an ugly confrontation. Alas, that is just for now.
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