President Trump's first week in office included executive orders to revive two pipeline proposals halted during former President Barack Obama's administration. Trump's move on Keystone XL, which will deliver heavy crude from Canada to U.S. refineries, is sensible and will boost public safety in Minnesota.
His decision on the other, the Dakota Access pipeline spurring protests near a North Dakota Indian reservation, was premature. Trump should have first wielded his deal-making skills to defuse tensions between the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, the pipeline company and local law enforcement. Without intervention by a cool-headed authority, violence as the pipeline construction resumes is a distinct possibility.
Citing concerns about the safety of other methods of oil transport, the Star Tribune Editorial Board previously backed Keystone's completion, putting it at odds with climate change activists whose political clout spurred Obama's rejection of the pipeline. This nation still relies on crude oil, which typically needs to be transported vast distances to refineries. There is no risk-free method, and pipelines, though imperfect, are safer than rail, truck and ship.
The Dakota Access pipeline will cross under the Missouri River near the Standing Rock reservation. The tribe has raised concerns about pipeline leaks contaminating drinking water and disturbing burial grounds and other culturally sensitive locations. Three federal agencies raised concerns about the quality of the environmental and cultural reviews that have taken place. Those issues should not be shrugged off as federal agencies move forward after Trump's executive order.
The volatility of the ongoing protest also warrants caution. The encampment near the pipeline's proposed river crossing drew thousands of protesters last year. More images of unrest from this Great Plains standoff would be shared around the world, casting further doubt on Trump's leadership and claims of popular support.
Caution by the agencies charged with carrying out the Dakota Access pipeline executive order would best serve the nation and reflect positively on the fledgling Trump administration.
— Minneapolis Star Tribune
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