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What the Dakota Access Pipeline Is Really About

The standoff isn’t about tribal rights or water, but a White House that ignores the rule of law.

Dec. 6, 2016 7:40 p.m. ET
A little more than two weeks ago, during a confrontation between protesters and law enforcement, an improvised explosive device was detonated on a public bridge in southern North Dakota. That was simply the latest manifestation of the “prayerful” and “peaceful” protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Escalating tensions were temporarily defused Sunday when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, at the direction of the Obama administration, announced it would refuse to grant the final permit needed to complete the $3.8 billion project. The pipeline, which runs nearly 1,200 miles from the Bakken Shale in North Dakota to Illinois, is nearly complete except for a small section where it needs to pass under the Missouri River. Denying the permit for that construction only punts the issue to next month—to a new president who won’t thumb his nose at the rule of law.

Like many North Dakotans, I’ve had to endure preaching about the pipeline from the press, environmental activists, musicians and politicians in other states. More often than not, these sermons are informed by little more than a Facebook post. At the risk of spoiling the protesters’ narrative, I’d like to bring us back to ground truth.

• This isn’t about tribal rights or protecting cultural resources. The pipeline does not cross any land owned by the Standing Rock Sioux. The land under discussion belongs to private owners and the federal government. To suggest that the Standing Rock tribe has the legal ability to block the pipeline is to turn America’s property rights upside down.

• Two federal courts have rejected claims that the tribe wasn’t consulted. The project’s developer and the Army Corps made dozens of overtures to the Standing Rock Sioux over more than two years. Often these attempts were ignored or rejected, with the message that the tribe would only accept termination of the project.

• Other tribes and parties did participate in the process. More than 50 tribes were consulted, and their concerns resulted in 140 adjustments to the pipeline’s route. The project’s developer and the Army Corps were clearly concerned about protecting tribal artifacts and cultural sites. Any claim otherwise is unsupported by the record. The pipeline’s route was also studied—and ultimately supported—by the North Dakota Public Service Commission (on which I formerly served), the State Historic Preservation Office, and multiple independent archaeologists.

• This isn’t about water protection. Years before the pipeline was announced, the tribe was working with the Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps to relocate its drinking-water intake. The new site sits roughly 70 miles downstream of where the pipeline is slated to cross the Missouri River. Notably, the new intake, according to the Bureau of Reclamation, will be 1.6 miles downstream of an elevated railroad bridge that carries tanker cars carrying crude oil.

Further, the pipeline will be installed about 100 feet below the riverbed. Automatic shut-off valves will be employed on either side of the river, and the pipeline will be constructed to exceed many federal safety requirements.

Other pipelines carrying oil, gas and refined products already cross the Missouri River at least a dozen times upstream of the tribe’s intake. The corridor where the Dakota Access Pipeline will run is directly adjacent to another pipeline, which carries natural gas under the riverbed, as well as an overhead electric transmission line. This site was chosen because it is largely a brownfield area that was disturbed long ago by previous infrastructure.

• This isn’t about the climate. The oil that will be shipped through the pipeline is already being produced. But right now it is transported in more carbon-intensive ways, such as by railroad or long-haul tanker truck. So trying to thwart the pipeline to reduce greenhouse gas could have the opposite effect.

So what is the pipeline dispute really about? Political expediency in a White House that does not see itself as being bound by the rule of law. The Obama administration has decided to build a political legacy rather than lead the country. It is facilitating an illegal occupation that has grown wildly out of control. That the economy depends on a consistent and predictable permitting regime seems never to have crossed the president’s mind.

There is no doubt that Native American communities have historically suffered at the hands of the federal government. But to litigate that history on the back of a legally permitted river crossing is absurd. The Obama administration should enforce the law, release the easement and conclude this dangerous standoff.

Mr. Cramer, a Republican, represents North Dakota in the U.S. House. As a member of the North Dakota Public Service Commission (2003-12) he helped site the original Keystone Pipeline completed in 2010.

Trump’s Charm of Not Being Obama

Updated Dec. 3, 2016 8:47 a.m. ET
Barack Obama will retire a president personally popular with the American people yet who served them (and himself, and his party) badly.

He fretted in 2012 that he would lose the election just in time for Mitt Romney to get credit for an Obama recovery. That long-delayed recovery is finally coming in the last months of his administration—the economy finally broke 3% growth in the third quarter—and now Mr. Trump will get the credit.

He may even deserve a bit, witness the outbreak of Trumpian optimism in the stock market and small-business hiring plans.

Mr. Obama came in saying fossil fuels were running out and prices were destined to rise, and instead got the fracking revolution, whose related employment boost was arguably a factor in his re-election victories in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Yet he couldn’t stop looking this gift horse in the mouth.

Unshrewdly, in the name of satisfying his climate-change constituents, he needlessly launched a regulatory war against coal as cheap natural gas was already doing the job for him. Result: Democrats became the enemy in coal country.

He pandered to his green friends on the Keystone XL pipeline. Result: Mr. Trump is inheriting a rebound in natural gas fracking and an associated infrastructure boom that is just now heating up again in time for an incoming administration to get credit.


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Natural gas fracking (far more than Trumpian trade policy or browbeating of companies like Carrier) is the force reawakening manufacturing opportunity in the Rust Belt, timed perfectly for Mr. Trump’s arrival.

Holding back development was not the depressed gas price—that’s what attracts manufacturers—but the lack of infrastructure, specifically pipelines, to get the gas to prospective plant sites. Blame Mr. Obama and his Keystone theatrics.

A Brazilian company, Braskem, just opted to build a $500 million plastics plant in Texas, not Philadelphia—home to 85% Obama voters—for one reason only: lack of pipeline infrastructure.

Mr. Obama, notice, pays this price for climate gestures that were purely symbolic, having no impact on climate, and especially purblind given gas’s role in reducing U.S. CO2 emissions.

His climate gestures were destined not to survive his presidency in any case. All he did was shoot himself, his party and American workers in the foot.

Mr. Obama paid lip service to tax reform, the giant dividend from which will now be collected, yes, by Mr. Trump.

His Iran deal was supposed to reveal Mr. Obama as a bold, creative, unblinkered foreign-policy innovator. Yet, for better or worse, Mr. Trump is already on a path to revise America’s relations with the world in far more daring fashion.

One dividend may already be coming in, judging by Saudi Arabia’s surprise decision this week to wave the white flag in its price war against fracking. America is no longer a country that benefits from low oil prices. All the indicators are turning up: rig count, “frac sand” prices, the share prices of domestic energy pioneers like Chesapeake and Oneok.

A Rust Belt renaissance that might have recaptured for Democrats the lost love of the American worker will become a halo for Team Trump instead. Shell is going ahead with a $6 billion petrochemical plant on the site of an old zinc smelter on the Ohio River in hard-hit Appalachia.

The plant, known as Shell Appalachia, will generate 6,000 construction jobs for several years, plus 600 full-time plant jobs, plus thousands more jobs indirectly for companies that make plastics, steel pipe, sound proofing for gas compressors, pickup trucks, housing etc., etc.

A Thai company is eyeing a second giant ethylene plant nearby in eastern Ohio. Guess who will get credit for lifting the fortunes of a region presidents have been promising to help since Kennedy?

Mr. Obama was too blinded by his shibboleths, his own brand of political correctness, to let good things happen in a way that would let him take credit for them.

He failed to lean in favor of things that were working—like fracking, like corporate America’s steady effort to encourage more consumer involvement in disciplining health-care costs, which ObamaCare might have borrowed from.

Mr. Trump can still screw things up. His trade-war talk, his eagerness to meddle in plant-siting decisions, could be poisonous to a gas-fueled manufacturing boom conspicuously linked to the world.

Fully 60% of the $170 billion in planned petrochemical investments tied to fracking now in the works are funded by overseas investors. These investors come because they think of America as a lawful, trustworthy place to do business.

But Mr. Trump, our new dealmaker-in-chief, also has a pragmatic streak as big as Manhattan’s Trump Tower. He will make mistakes but here’s betting they won’t be Mr. Obama’s mistakes of smug obliviousness.

Obama Admin to Push Long List of ‘Midnight’ Actions Before End of Term

Several of President Barack Obama’s federal agencies have outlined as many as 98 final regulations for him to implement via executive fiat prior to his departure from the White House in early 2017.

According to Politico, the proposed regulations cover everything from commodities speculation to air pollution, coal mining, fracking and even Planned Parenthood, whose funding the administration hopes to protect.

The regulations would also reportedly further anchor Obamacare into law, making it more cumbersome for President-elect Donald Trump and the Republican Congress to abolish it when he steps into office.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has warned, however, that any “midnight regulations” rushed through in Obama’s final days would ultimately be revoked, one way or another.

“Should you ignore this counsel, please be aware that we will work with our colleagues to ensure that Congress scrutinizes your actions — and, if appropriate, overturns them – pursuant to the Congressional Review Act,” he wrote in a letter to Obama’s federal agencies, The Hill reported.

Despite the threat, some agencies still remained steadfast in their mission to over-regulate America.
“As I’ve mentioned to you before, we’re running — not walking — through the finish line of President Obama’s presidency,” Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy reportedly wrote to her fellow agency employees the day after Trump won the 2016 election.

As explained by the Foundation for Economic Education, the strategy for blocking quickly crafted regulations by the EPA and other agencies centered on passing a bill dubbed the Midnight Rules Relief Act, which would reportedly strengthen the 1996 Congressional Review Act and thus empower Congress with the authority to overturn needless executive regulations.

“As it is now, CRA actions can cover only one rule at a time,” the foundation wrote. “Given that more than 1,000 regulations will be CRA-eligible next Congress, this could mean a lot of votes.”

Were Congress to pass the Midnight Rules Relief Act, it could bundle its repeals together, making it exceptionally easy for Republican lawmakers to halt Obama’s lame-duck actions.


The litigants battling the Obama Administration’s new climate rule wrote:

“The rule’s restructuring of nearly every state’s electric grid would exceed even the authority that Congress gave to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the federal agency responsible for electricity regulation.”

We need to get behind and support the fight against these sweeping regulations that are purportedly being effected in the name of “climate change.”

The Hill: The dozens of states and energy companies suing to stop the Obama administration’s climate change rule for power plants are calling it a “breathtaking expansion” of the federal government’s power.

The litigants, led by West Virginia and a coalition of electric utility, lobbed their opening volley in federal court Friday night with their initial brief on the merits of their case.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rule, dubbed the Clean Power Plan, is already on hold, thanks to a surprise Supreme Court order earlier this month.

But the opponents of the regulation must still make their case on the merits, starting in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where the Friday brief was filed.

Their arguments in the 192-page initial brief focus heavily on their position that the EPA has stepped outside the bounds of its authority under the Clean Air Act to limit pollution.

Extra 14.3 Million U.S.-Born Americans Are Out of Work, Compared to 2000

Judicial Watch: Obama Family’s October Weekend Fundraising Getaway to San Diego Cost Taxpayers $2,001,468.90 in Travel Expenses Alone

Known Travel Expenses Now Approaching $10 Million A Year

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it has obtained records from the U.S. Department of the Air Force revealing that the October 2015 Columbus Day getaway enjoyed by President Barack Obama and his family cost taxpayers $969,783.90 in flight expenses alone. The documents regarding the Obama travel expenses came in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request first filed on October 13, 2015.

According to the newly released records obtained by Judicial Watch, the Obama family’s October 11 flight from Los Angeles, where he had attended three high-dollar fundraisers, to San Diego, and then from San Diego back to Washington on October 12, required a total of 4.7 hours of flying time at $206,337 per hour. That brought the total flight cost to taxpayers to $969,783.90. The records do not include the flight time to travel from Washington, DC, to Los Angeles (through Oregon, Seattle, and San Francisco), nor the Secret Service costs or other expenses. Previously released documents show the flight time from Washington to Los Angeles to be five hours, which safely adds $1,031,685 and brings the known total to expense to $2,001,468.90.

According to press reports, Obama and his family spent their getaway weekend in San Diego at the luxurious Rancho Santa Fe resort community. With an estimated median income of $188, 859, Rancho Santa Fe is one of the highest income communities in the United States. According to the Rancho Santa Fe website, it boasts “one of the storied private golf courses in California,” with “one of the finest walkable designs in the world” where “you and your friends will cherish the memorable times.” Sure enough, President Obama reportedly spent several hours golfing.

The White House touted Obama’s trip to the West Coast as an opportunity for the president to push his gun control agenda in Eugene, Oregon, the site of the Umpqua Community College shooting the previous week. According to the White House schedule for Friday, October 9, however, Obama spent just two hours with the victims’ families before flying off to Seattle, Washington, for a Democratic National Committee (DNC) fundraiser. He then left Seattle to participate in a DNC fundraiser in San Francisco later that evening.

In San Francisco, Obama joined Kanye West for a high-dollar fundraiser at The Warfield Theater, which, according to its website, features “the hottest rock shows in the Bay Area.” There, he attacked the Republican Party for having “gone off the deep end.”

On Saturday, October 10, Obama extended his fundraising agenda with three additional high-dollar events, all in the Los Angeles area. According to, “In a whirlwind 6 1/2-hour visit to Los Angeles on Saturday, the fundraiser-in-chief will hit a trio of deep-pocket events…beginning with the home of the Star Wars director and wife Katie McGrath for a $33,400-per-person.”

The $2,001,468.90 Obama spent for his flights between DC and Los Angeles to vacation in San Diego brings his known total expense to the American taxpayers thus far for all Obama travel to $72,881,504.68. That comes to more than $10 million per year for each year he has been in office.

Political candidates, campaigns, and parties reimburse the federal government for only a small portion of the costs of presidential political travel. The Obama White House keeps the formula for such cost-sharing secret.

A 2014 report by a special panel for the Department of Homeland Security found that the Secret Service “is stretched to and, in many cases, beyond its limits.”

“Barack Obama is now the 10-million-dollar man when it comes to wasteful presidential travel,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “It looks like that visit with grieving families was an excuse to get out to sunny California for some fundraising with celebrities such as Kanye West – and golfing.”

Amazing arrogance

Amazing arrogance

The arrogance coming out of the White House is amazing. Killing the Keystone pipeline in the name of the environment is a joke. Remember the Alaska pipeline? Been there 40 years, working quite well and over much worse terrain and weather than the Midwest. It even made room for the caribou herds to migrate.

But President Obama says there is too much danger to the ecology. How about all those rail cars filled with crude oil lumbering through the Midwest now? Oh yeah — a great deal of them belong to Obama’s friend and benefactor Warren Buffett.

Michael Brantley


Obama’s bad judgment

When I read “Obama rejects Keystone XL project” (Nov. 2), I was so enraged I thought it best to wait and avoid the use of expletives in my writing. The “people’s president” has demonstrated bad judgment in the past as it relates to the environment. Readers might recall President Obama’s foray into solar energy in the form of lending the people’s money ($535 million) to Solyndra, which went bankrupt, laying off 1,100 workers. Obama’s bad judgment knows no bounds. He has shut down Yucca Mountain Repository after the government spent billions of dollars creating this safe nuclear waste storage facility 1,000 feet underground at a site where more than 800 nuclear weapons were tested during the Cold War — an area that also is in restricted air space. Today, because of the man’s lack of common sense, nuclear waste is stored at 131 temporary sites in 39 states, which includes 66 nuclear power plants. The lunacy exposes large concentrations of population to the possibility of a nuclear accident. As well, Obama has essentially waged war against one of the cleanest ways to produce electricity, nuclear power. But I digress.

Obama’s unilateral Keystone pipeline decision should outrage Americans for several reasons of which this president is seemingly ignorant. Americans will continue to drive oil burners until alternative technology displaces them in the distant future; they will not drive more or less because the Keystone pipeline does or does not exist. There are already about 2.3 million miles of pipeline carrying oil and natural gas. Obama’s supposed concern as it relates to the environment is a straw man on many levels. His statements, “America’s now a global leader in taking serious action to fight climate change,” as well as, “And frankly, approving this project would have undercut that global leadership,” fly in the face of reality and common sense with even the most perfunctory scrutiny.

What the Keystone XL pipeline would have done is allowed America to trade with our largest trading partner, Canada, buying more oil from them rather than from countries like Saudi Arabia. As I recall, Saudi Arabia is the breeding ground of the terrorists who brought down the World Trade Center, killing thousands of people and resulting in wars in the Middle East where the people’s president is now escalating our involvement. I wonder how President Obama, given his concern for the environment, can justify the many billions of gallons of oil that have been and are being consumed (wasted) by our military in our misplaced forays into the affairs of that area of the world? Only a fool would reject the idea that getting oil from our “bordering” friendly neighbor would not enhance our oil security or for that matter our national security. The Canadians are correct when they say rhetoric won out over reason.

Henry Pierson

Keystone’s easy symbolism


President Obama did little to combat climate change by killing the Keystone XL pipeline the other day.

State Department studies showed the pipeline would reduce CO2 emissions by eliminating the need for truck and rail transport.

An Environmental Protection Agency study later found the oil would increase emissions by opening the Canadian tar sands to development, but earlier studies had rightly acknowledged the tar sands would eventually be tapped, regardless of what happened to the pipeline project.

So Obama’s decision amounts only to paltry symbolism, as he essentially conceded. The president will attend an international climate conference in Paris in two weeks and clearly wants to come with some bragging rights. The president stressed the United States must lead by example.

“If we’re going to prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them and release more dangerous pollution into the sky,” he said.

But his heated rhetoric doesn’t change the fact that killing the pipeline won’t do a thing to move the CO2 emissions needle.

What it will do is kill some 40,000 construction jobs, alienate the United States’ top trade partner and undermine the nation’s energy security.

We are not among those who dismiss the threat of climate change or the need to develop alternative fuel sources.

Although the science may not be as precise as some environmentalists claim, the evidence, including warming trends and sea level rises, suggests the prudent course of action would be to take reasonable steps to reduce carbon emissions and prepare for a changing climate, including rising seas.

But that doesn’t mean throwing the world’s economy into turmoil by abruptly abandoning cheap and reliable fuel sources.

Indeed, the United States’ greenhouse emissions have been falling because of the increased use of clean-burning natural gas — produced by fracking — and greater efficiency.

Further greenhouse reductions will occur as more enterprises turn to solar and wind power, which are becoming more efficient, economical and reliable.

But all this will take time, research and winning public support for policies that promote a transition to alternative fuel sources.

George P. Shultz, Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state, suggests a revenue-neutral carbon tax. That would be a heavy lift in today’s political climate, but the president is not discussing such meaningful strategies.

Instead, Obama offers trite symbolism that does nothing to change the difficult reality that fossil fuels remain essential to meeting the world’s energy needs.

Cuban People


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