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‘A Second Flint Does Not Make America Great Again’: #NoDAPL Activists Vow to Resist

Auditi Guha

“Make no mistake: resistance to the toxic Keystone XL pipeline will only grow stronger. We will mobilize, fight back, and resist the Keystone XL pipeline,” said Indigenous Environmental Network organizer Dallas Goldtooth.

From climate change denial to the blatant support of fossil fuels, President Donald Trump’s orders last week hit a nerve with water protectors and environmental activists who have long been fighting government and big money for clean land and water.

Indigenous groups from across the country organized a press call Monday pledging mass mobilization to fight Trump’s orders and stop the two pipelines.

“Make no mistake: resistance to the toxic Keystone XL pipeline will only grow stronger. We will mobilize, fight back, and resist the Keystone XL pipeline. We plan to create camps along the Keystone XL pipeline route to fight this pipeline every step of the way. If Donald Trump doesn’t back down, expect a massive unified resistance from Indigenous nations across North America,” said Indigenous Environmental Network organizer Dallas Goldtooth in a statement.

Environmentalists also have vowed to continue fighting in the face of Trump’s executive actions to advance construction of the controversial pipelines in a bid to expand energy infrastructure, one of his campaign promises. 

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“These orders will only reignite the widespread grassroots opposition to these pipelines and other dirty energy projects,” said May Boeve, executive director of 350.org, in a statement. “Trump is about to meet the fossil fuel resistance head on.”

The grassroots climate action network has planned a climate march in Washington, D.C., on April 29.

The last stretch of pipeline construction had been thwarted by Native tribes at Standing Rock fighting for land, water, and treaty rights, but the new order green lights the stalled project.

However, Trump’s attempt to renew pipeline construction hit a snag last week when one of three members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) announced his resignation. The vacancy could lead to a delay in oil and gas projects.

The Standing Rock Sioux oppose completion of Energy Transfer Partners’ Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) because it would pass beneath the Missouri River and could contaminate the tribe’s water supply and disrupt sacred land.

“This pipeline runs right through the traditional lands of the great Sioux Nation,” said Joye Braun, an organizer from the Cheyenne River Sioux. “Attacks on our lands, sovereignty, and health must stop.” The Indigenous groups on Monday’s call plan to fight back through mass mobilization and spiritual camps, along with reviving the Standing Rock camp, according to the Indigenous Environmental Network’s press statement.

Environmentalists have pointed out that pipelines like the DAPL often leak. About 9,000 significant accidents have been mapped in the United States in the last 30 years.

Trump could stand to benefit from the order, having invested in Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind DAPL. His spokesperson claimed that he removed this conflict of interest but has not provided evidence to that effect, the Guardian reported last week.

As Trump has made no attempt to meet with the tribes affected by his decisions, Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II sent a letter on Wednesday requesting, for the second time, a chance to be “at the same table” with him, “leader to leader,” to discuss the pipeline issue.

Meanwhile, the resistance continues in North Dakota, where the pipeline is almost complete, with solidarity actions taking place across the nation.

Protesters have called for banks to divest from the pipeline. In California, Native youth led a march Saturday to Wells Fargo, one of the largest banks financing DAPL.

Hundreds showed up at the White House last Tuesday to protest the orders while Greenpeace activists unfurled a large “Resist” banner.

Also in the past week, former President Barack Obama’s 18-year-old daughter Malia joined the Sundance Film Festival’s Standing Rock solidarity event in Park City, Utah; Alaska held a rally “to stand up for clean air, water and soil”; a “No KXL, No DAPL” event took place at Twin Cities, Minnesota; and a prayer service supporting Natives at Standing Rock was held on the Charlottesville Downtown Mall in Virginia.

A military veterans group has announced plans to deploy thousands of veterans to Standing Rock, which could have the effect of “putting the White House in a politically difficult position,” CNBC reported on Monday.

And as the new administration continues to deny climate change, scientists plan to march on Washington, D.C. and run for office in resistance.

Activists point out that public comment on DAPL is open until February 20 to push for a full review of the 1,100-mile long, $3.8 billion pipeline that would carry fracked oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota, through South Dakota and Iowa to Illinois.

Opponents fear that a rupture in the pipeline that is supposed tunnel underneath the Missouri River could pollute the water 17 million depend on. “Creating a second Flint does not make America great again,” Archambault said.

“We’re Going to Get Nowhere”

The Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines order came a month after the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee quietly ended its investigation into the Flint water crisis. This month, congressional Democrats asked for the investigation to be reopened.

Flint-area residents say they still don’t have clean water, and distrust of government remains high three years after the city’s unelected emergency manager, appointed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, switched the city’s drinking water source from the Detroit system to the corrosive Flint River as a cost-saving measure.

Residents also took issue with Trump’s recent order to temporarily freeze all contracts and grants at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), but the agency later confirmed this would not affect the agency’s funding to the largely Black, low-income city.

Though the city’s lead levels reportedly fell below the federal limit last week, many remain skeptical.

Community activist Melissa Mays of Flint Rising told the Associated Press that the new result “means nothing” because it was a small sampling, that there is still lead in the system, and it will take the city many years to replace all the pipes.

“Now we have a president [who has] made it very clear that he has no intentions to keep the EPA or clean air and water regulations. So we feel even worse,” she said, reported Democracy Now! on Thursday.

“The day after the election, we just sat there and said, ‘We’ve had to work an uphill battle with the Republican state government. Now we have a Republican federal government, and we’re going to get nowhere.'”

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