[JURIST] US President Donald Trump [official website] on Tuesday signed presidential memoranda to progress construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline [memoranda]. The memoranda, which have the legal force of executive orders, also require that materials used in their construction be made in the United States. The Trump Administration argues that the pipeline projects will increase job growth and aid the economy. This decision has raised significant controversy [Reuters report], given former President Obama's stances against the pipelines, the fact that Trump owned stock in ETP, the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline, until at least mid-2016 and because its chief executive donated $100,000 to his campaign.
The Dakota Access Pipeline [informational website], is a partially constructed oil pipeline that would transport more than 470,000 barrels of oil per day over its 1,172 mile length through North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois. Last month the US Army Corps of Engineers announced [JURIST report] that an alternate route will be investigated for the Dakota Access Pipeline. The controversy surrounding the project is connected with its proposed proximity to multiple large bodies of water that could become irreparably contaminated should the pipeline fail. Protesters have made camp at the site since early summer and are led in part by the Indigenous Environmental Network [advocacy website] and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe [official website]. Conflict between protesters and police has been condemned by both the UN and the American Civil Liberties Union. In November the ACLU reported that police at the Standing Rock site in North Dakota used life-threatening weapons to control protesters [JURIST report]. Earlier that month a UN rights group released a statement expressing concerns that the US government is ignoring treaty rights, as well as human rights [JURIST report] of Native Americans and others that are protesting the DAPL.