Pipeline

Trump, Obama, and the Approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline

A sad example of how arbitrary politically motivated bureaucratic decisions are replacing the rule of law

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DAPLErikMcGregor/SipaUSA/Newscom
Erik McGregor/Sipa USA/Newscom

President Trump signed an executive order last week directing the Army Corps of Engineers to "review and approve in an expedited manner, to the extent permitted by law" the easements across federal lands necessary to complete the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). At issue is permission to finish construction of the last segment of the pipeline underneath Lake Oahe in North Dakota. Last July, the Corp completed and issued an environmental assessment (EA) with a "Finding of No Significant Impact" with regard to the construction of the pipeline beneath Lake Oahe.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe objected to the construction due to expressed concerns that an upsteam pipeline leak could contaminate their drinking and irrigation water supplies. However, the Corps' environmental assessment specifically noted, "The tribes argue the District did not adequately consult on the DAPL pipeline alignment. The EA establishes that the District made a good faith effort to consult with the tribes and that it considered all tribal comments." The Corps' assessment concluded that measures adopted to mitigate any spills were adequate to protect Lake Oahe. Environmental activists opposed the construction of the pipeline in the hope that stopping it would prevent the production and burning of fossil fuels that contribute to man-made global warming.

As the fall wore on, thousands of protesters set up camp near Lake Oahe to block construction of the pipeline and to put pressure on the Obama administration to overrule the Corp's environmental assessment. Without speculating on the behind-the-scenes maneuvering by Obama administration officials, it is the case that acting Assistant Director of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy issued in December a memorandum that voided the Corps' assessment. In her memo Darcy did observe:

I want to be clear that this decision does not alter the Army's position that the Corps' prior reviews and actions have comported with legal requirements. Rather, my decision acknowledges and addresses that a more robust analysis can be done and should be done, under these circumstances (emphasis hers), before an easement is granted to the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross the Missouri River on Corps land.

Under the circumstances, Darcy then declined to approve an easement that would enable the completion of the pipeline. In addition, Darcy ordered the Corps to undertake a full-blown environmental impact statement, a process that could take as long as two years more to complete.

Now just two months later, North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven has reportedly been told that Army Secretary Robert Speer will soon order the Corps to issue the easement necessary to complete the pipeline. Whether this apparent impending approval is "permitted by law" will, of course, be contested by Sioux and environmental activists in court.

Ultimately, this episode is an example of how arbitrary politically motivated bureaucratic decisions are replacing the rule of law. This should worry every American.

NEXT: Here's That Time Jeff Sessions Wanted to Execute Drug Dealers

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  1. Alt-text: Protect my Precious Bodily Fluids!

    1. Alternative alt-text: “But dihydrogen monoxide kills!”

      1. Might I suggest hydrogen hydroxide or oxidane instead?

        1. Serious qeury: is there anyway to read alt-text over a phone since a cursor isn’t used?

          1. Serious answer: I have no idea.

          2. Look at the source!

          3. Yeah. Install any app designed to read aloud the contents of web pages for blind persons. Such screen readers, as standard, read aloud the alt-text of images on web pages, typically to give the blind person an idea of what the image portrays.

            Then point your screen reader at the desired reason page and fire away.

            Of course, I never said it was a ~practical~ way to read the alt-text.

          4. I’ve found that if I press on the image, the alt-text will appear superimposed on the bottom of the screen, similar to pressing on a link to preview where it will take you.

        2. Oxidane is the preferred IUPAC name.

  2. The rule of law? You’ve been sold a bill of goods.

    1. Exactly. Either the rule of law stinks, & these are ad hoc improvements, or the rule of law is good but so far from the status quo that ad hoc improvements are the best we can get.

  3. Look, we vote these presidents in for their ability to make the right arbitrary politically motivated bureaucratic decisions.

    1. Let’s just wait and see what he’s going to do before we start freaking out about the things he’s doing.

      1. React to what is actually happening instead of hyperbolic fear-mongering potentialities?

        What a novel concept.

        Shame it won’t catch on.

      2. Well, I’m perfectly fine with the Corps of Engineers going back to their previous decision that was studied and came to a conclusion before a petty bureaucrat waved the decision away in the most trivial way.

    2. I genuinely believe that a significant portion of the public thinks what the president – any president – says = the law.

      1. Well, if the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.

    3. The Dakota pipeline killed grandma!

      1. Crawling under a bulldozer to find the brake lines is not a wise move.

  4. Why is there a little red TARDIS inside a big drop of water?

    1. Answer: Daleks.

      1. Those lovable little snotballs, always up to new pranks.

        Nevermind their speech impediment

        1. It isn’t a speech impediment, it’s the wattage going to their speaker, they have it stuck on 11. Now the good Dr. was going to adjust it for them…

          1. +1 feedback

      2. red TARDIS == Commie Dr.

  5. True. Seems like the previous president was playing politics. The current president intervened for political purposes, no doubt, but this would not have been a political issue if the Army Corp of Engineers would have been allowed to just issue its ruling without being overruled by political actors in the previous administration.

    1. This. Which flew way over Ronald’s head.

      1. JS & LR: Trump overrules an Obama arbitrary decision with another arbitrary decision. Planning by citizens and companies becomes riskier.

        1. How is this particular decision of Trump’s arbitrary, though? The Corps already issued a finding of no significant impact, as you noted. Countermanding an arbitrary order (to redo the study) is not itself arbitrary.

          1. Yeah, they’re bending over backwards to try to make it look like Trump is being just as reckless as the previous administration.

            1. Yep, which was more arbitrary, the detailed study, or one good little progressive worker bee shouting “doesn’t count!!”

        2. Doing the right thing is arbitrary?

          The pipeline was almost complete when the ruling came down. You can’t change the rules in the middle of the game.

        3. How is his decision arbitrary? It was the decision that should have been made in the first place?

          Give it up Ron. Trump did the right thing here. It no doubt hurts you a lot to admit it. But it is what it is.

          1. All: It is arbitrary if the previous finding by Darcy has any any legal force; specifically that after due consideration that a full environmental impact statement is required to be done. Neither the pipeline company nor the tribe can trust the government to obey its own rules. The decisions just depend on who is in power – the very definition of rule of man versus the rule of law.

    2. Whether this apparent impending approval is “permitted by law” will, of course, be contested by Sioux and environmental activists in court.

      It has been contested in court. And Standing Rock lost.

      Obama’s interference contradicted an actual legal ruling regarding an already-approved project that was currently under construction. Trump’s undoes Obama’s interference and restores the situation back to how it was when it was found to be perfectly fine by the courts and the local Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs).

      I can’t fucking stand Donald Trump. PLEASE stop making me defend him.

      1. I can’t fucking stand Donald Trump. PLEASE stop making me defend him.

        When you defend the truth regardless of whose side it falls on, you only defend your own principles, and that is a noble thing and to be lauded. Breathe easy. You’re among friends, sir.

        1. Thank you for that.

  6. Ok, Reason online-ad team: You were doing great for about a month but now I’m getting Mama June ad images.

    Knock that shit off.

    1. Maybe you should stop visiting Mama June porn sites.

    2. ^ OMG this!! It’s becoming so unbearable I thought I should comment as well.

    3. The AdBlock rules to exclude ads from Taboola:

      ##[class^=”trc_”]
      ##[id^=”taboola”]

      FWIW a lot of people are getting pissed off about AdBlock letting Taboola through as non-intrusive. Maybe something will come of it.

      1. That having been said, being able to block the ads doesn’t excuse Reason for employing them.

        1. I don’t mind ads – I actually like some ads and commercials – but why horrid fat fucks and skin disease/toenail rot images??

          1. Agreed, I’m not complaining about the use of ads, just the use of these obnoxious ads.

    4. The algorithms know what you like, even if you won’t admit it to yourself.

  7. “The tribes argue the District did not adequately consult on the DAPL pipeline alignment. The EA establishes that the District made a good faith effort to consult with the tribes and that it considered all tribal comments.”

    For what it’s worth, the Sioux tribes were apparently consulted but they repeatedly failed to attend the meetings they were invited to and even barred members of the tribe who did want to attend from doing so, then they turn around and say they weren’t consulted. This sort of dishonesty is what you can expect from your average enviro-activist.

    Here is an interview on the Tom Wood’s show about this.

  8. Environmental activists opposed the construction of the pipeline in the hope that stopping it would prevent the production and burning of fossil fuels that contribute to man-made global warming.

    “What do we want? Vastly higher energy bills! When do we want it? As soon as we can build the enormous redundancies required to make it work!”

    1. They know good and well that that oil is already being moved via truck and train. This is just them throwing their shoes like always…agitating for the sake of agitating. It is what watermelons do.

      1. We should have elected Gallagher.

  9. So the leader of the executive branch, ordering a federal agency in the executive branch to abide by the processes they are required to by law, to the extent allowed by law, is the same level of politically motivated bureaucratic decision making as requiring the that same federal agency to not abide by its assessment and make them do a bunch of crap for 2 years, just because.

    Got it.

  10. Interesting story about all of those “Environmentally Conscious” protesters.

    This ain’t gonna get picked up in the national media…./

    http://www.keloland.com/news/a…..encampment

    $6 million dollars for cleaning up their stinking mess?!?! Mind boggling. Little shit environs ran home to where its warm when the North Dakota winter hit and they left a pile of garbage behind.

    1. yeah i work with one of those sjws. he spent the whole month of december protesting, so nice it was all for nothing.

      the irony is they caused more damage with their garbage then that pipeline ever will

  11. Haha fucking horseshit, Obama blocking the pipeline was a breakdown in the rule of law. Jesus tap dancing Chris

  12. Glad that the point is finally being made, albeit w/ a little delay

    GILMORE?|1.24.17 @ 4:33PM| block | mute | #


    President Trump has said yes to building the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines.

    The angle here (which you’d think would have been worth a short entry @H&R) should be =
    *The president’s opinion shouldn’t fucking matter on these issues*

    we shouldn’t be glad Trump is “enabling” something any more than people should have been glad that asshat Obama stuck himself into stopping them for political reasons

    What irks me is the increasing perception that politicians “Do” everything. Like the Chait-esque assumpiton that “Obama spent lots of taxpayer money! =Ergo he saved the economy”.

    Because recessions never end w/o politicians waving their hands.

    1. In the hear-and-now, I’m most concerned with the defense that keeps being trotted out that “oh, well, we shouldn’t worry too much about Trump’s attempts to rule by Imperial decree because he has to have absolute power to undo all the damage Obama did!”

      Unchecked executive power is *the* problem, even if it occasionally might be used to an end I might find agreeable. Being cheerleaders for Trump’s use of EOs (I’m not accusing you of this, Gilmore) will only make it more difficult to ,make a principled case for rolling those powers back. And they have to be rolled back, or the cycle of every political issue becoming a life & death struggle for the Soul of America will simply never end.

  13. Reason – So sad to see you’ve all become hacks infected with TDS. I hope the cocktail parties are worth it. There’s plenty to be mad about Trump at, but restoring the rule of law after the Obama Admin blocked a legal pipeline is not one of them

  14. “Ultimately, this episode is an example of how arbitrary politically motivated bureaucratic decisions are replacing the rule of law. This should worry every American.”

    Well said and fine, yet Reason seems OK with not adhering to Rule of Law when it comes to border control and unauthorized immigration.

  15. Ultimately, this episode is an example of how arbitrary politically motivated bureaucratic decisions are replacing the rule of law. This should worry every American.

    As far as I can tell, every American voter entered their polling place in the sincere and open belief they were electing either a queen or a dictator.

    1. I thought we were an anarcho-syndicalist commune?

      1. +1 watery bint

        1. It’s “moistened bint” and “watery tart”

          But maybe you meant to refer to both in one compact phrase.

  16. Environmental activists opposed the construction of the pipeline in the hope that stopping it would prevent the production and burning of fossil fuels that contribute to man-made global warming.

    Tip:
    Stick to believable nonfalsifiable claims, like tossing virgins in the volcano will keep dragons away.

  17. PROPERTY RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHTS!

    That is to say, in a system with strong property rights this level of regulatory approval/disapproval/approval with the accompanying litigation would not be needed. DAPL would be liable for damages caused by a leak, so Standing Rock could be justly compensated in the event of a spill. But more importantly, DAPL would have a very strong incentive to prevent any spills (above and beyond what already exists).

    But property rights are, like, part of the military industrial corporate complex, man. So we can’t have that.

  18. DAPL would be liable for damages caused by a leak, so Standing Rock could be justly compensated in the event of a spill.

    But KKKORPORASHUNZES!

  19. If pipelines were the grave danger these fucktards keep trying to make them out to be you know the media would be falling down over themselves to write up every incident that occurs. Or they’re just too stupid to realize there’s a boatload of stories that will write themselves and fit the Narrative.

    1. Exactly. Most people don’t realize just how many pipelines there are in the country, which, given the lack of stories about pipeline disasters, illustrates the incredibly low level of risk they pose. For illustrations of pipelines, see this picture of the major pipelines in the US as well as the Texas RR commission GIS (under the visibility tab turn on only pipelines and then zoom in until you can see the major city streets to see them pop up – all the major cities have pipelines running through them, with Houston naturally having a very high concentration).

      1. ^ This.

        There is no safer, cleaner, more efficient way to transport liquids of any sort. You would think environmentalists would be all for pipelines. The only explanation is that, as Ron points out, they think getting rid of the pipelines will make us just stop using fossil fuels altogether, which again shows the shallowness of the “thinking” going on.

        1. And of course 99% of the protestors insist on having their detritus flushed away via pipelines, as long as the terminal isn’t their own drinking water supply.

  20. Trump wants to lay pipe in virgin territory, eh?

    1. Get your mind out of the gutter.

      1. Where were you when SugarFree laid pipes full of raw sewage through the commentariat?

        (Cheering with the rest of us)

        Speaking of which, when is our next installment of said sewage? What is he not paying his orphan slaves for anyway?

    2. Actually no, there are many other pipelines already going under the river…..

      1. There is a double 42 inch pipeline in the SAME right of way they are using.

  21. Question: Will the rabid left go full Fight Club on this pipeline when it’s done and intentionally cause an environmental catastrophe just to have their way? Turn America into Kuwait by acting like the Iraqis they badly want to import.

    Burning pipelines, far as the eye can see. I’m an environmentalist. Why can’t you see me?

    1. Also, as much as I respect Bailey and he’s too smooth to call it what it is, this is not environmentalism. This is not about tribal lands or treaties (neither of which the pipeline touches). It’s Marxists flying under the radar as greens. It’s a watermelon farm full of ripe, juicy bullshit that nobody should be eating. We should be razing the patch and shoveling manure over it to grow something in its place that doesn’t hate our country.

      1. This is not about tribal lands or treaties (neither of which the pipeline touches).

        The one legitimate point I’ve seen raised is that the land that the reservoir occupies was tribal land prior to being seized through eminent domain around 1960, possibly in violation of the Treaty of Laramie, in order to build the reservoir.

        I haven’t seen this figure heavily into the “water protectors” narrative, though,

        So, it is actually to a certain extent about “tribal lands or treaties,” but nowhere does the argument seem to be being made in those terms. Everything about the term “water protector” is specious and has nothing to do with the territorial questions that may actually have some legal teeth to them. The “water protectors” have done nothing but endanger the local water supply while their “enemies” have actually been doing all the work to “protect the water” in spite of the “water protectors” and their dumb-ass behavior.

        1. Was Tribal. That could open up a can of worms.

          Zero sum is so right. Not one argument by your avg leftist has any root derpitude other than total Marxist defeat of capital and profits. Until people start realizing that these morons are all Marxists, whether they realize it or not, then the ridiculous psychosis will go on until they start burning pipeline and other property while the left singes their praises.

        2. Wouldn’t these be “tribal waters”?

        3. For fuck’s sake, those treaties are almost as old as the outdated Constitution.

          And they were signed by white men too, so you know they really aren’t valid just on that basis alone.

  22. Best alternative fact about DPL: There are already eight other pipelines running under Lake Oahe… Haven’t seen that fact in a single mainstream article about the so-called ‘controversy’

  23. Trumpers are in full on – “But Obama did it” mode.

    Please explain how the pipeline should not go forward, however, since the original findings said it was OK?

    Forget the fact that trump is already circumventing the law.
    Was this thing not already approved and thus should have started legally anyway?

    The EPA will protest a solar powered windmill production plant that only produces deciduous matter for material as long as it makes a profit.
    The only reason to hold it up is because these folks are in the way physically as long as we are talking law.

    1. The pipeline was lawfully approved. Then Obama ignored the law and undid the approval. I don’t see how Trump resetting the decision back to the lawful one is an affront to the rule of law. Isn’t reinstating a lawful decision in place of an arbitrary unlawful one affirming the rule of law?

      1. I have no issue with trump re-affirming a lawful decision. He should, however, not go down the road of answering brak O’s disastrous record of snubbing the law with the same frightening abuses and EO’s are saying “I don’t have to wait for congress”. That means he can start a war when he wants to as well. How’s that working out so far?

        Trump, however, is on a tear with this EO stuff and it should be entirely illegal to do so. I understand that these actions will almost certainly be required to go through congress but complying with a terrible precedent that George Bush and Brak O ran wild with is not the answer and is just as dangerous as those two clowns.

        Because two previous power drunk assholes did it is no reason to justify trump doing it.

        The problem with rule of law is that it has to be applied to everyone equally, even one’s political ally.

  24. “Whether this apparent impending approval is “permitted by law” will, of course, be contested by Sioux and environmental activists in court.”

    In court? Only if they want to lose and waste a ton of money in the process. The Sioux, who are among the only Americans remaining who maintain a warrior ethic, surely have better ways to oppose the pipeline.

    1. Google Wounded Knee and get back to me on how pursuing better ways of opposition have worked out for the Sioux.

      1. They’ve not been exterminated yet. They will go down fighting.

        1. They’ll likely go down drunk. At about 2:00 this morning at a protest.

        2. Can we please stop talking about college hockey?

  25. has anyone read “Undaunted Courage” about the Lewis and Clarke Expedition?

    The part about the Indians forcing their women to have sex with the white guys so their aim would rub off was pretty messed up.

    Noble savages my ass.

    1. You should be more skeptical with what you read, and not be so willing to believe it. The firearms that Lewis and Clark had access to were no threat to the native population. They wouldn’t be invented for another 50 years.

      1. Since I am a little young to have been on the voyage, I have no idea if it is true. The memoirs state that the Indians leaders forced their women to have sex with the white guys so that they would in turn somehow acquire the good aim of the white man by having sex with the same women thereafter.

        The quality of the weapon is of little importance to the claim.
        My bet is that this is true because that is an awfully fantastical story to make up out of thin air for no reason.
        The other point is that the narrative that the indians were living high on the hog and life was grand until the European came along and destroyed everything is not true. The europeans did steal their land and ruined their lives but their lives were miserable and they were barely surviving the north American winters.

        1. “The memoirs state that the Indians leaders forced their women to have sex with the white guys so that they would in turn somehow acquire the good aim of the white man by having sex with the same women thereafter.”

          Aren’t you the slightest bit skeptical of such a thinly sourced claim?

          “The quality of the weapon is of little importance to the claim.”

          I’m not so sure. Over-confidence in technically superior yet ultimately ineffective weapons (like muskets) has a very white man speaking with fork-tongue ring to it. Even the conflation of weapons and sexual potency.

          I think small pox claimed more native (North and South) American lives than these harsh winters. It’s a miserable way to end your life.

  26. “…Environmental activists opposed the construction of the pipeline in the hope that stopping it would prevent the production and burning of fossil fuels that contribute to man-made global warming…”

    IOWs, it was 100% symbolic.

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