Arkansas's congressional delegation is lining up to support President Donald Trump's moves to revive the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines. President Trump utilized the power of executive orders on Tuesday to expedite reviews of the projects and re-start processes halted or delayed by former President Obama.
Following Trump's moves U.S. Representative French Hill, of the 2nd District in central Arkansas, issued a statement praising the President. Hill referenced a direct connection to a manufacturer in Little Rock, Welspun Tubular.
"In his first week on the job, President Trump is proving that he is serious about North American energy independence, job growth, and private infrastructure spending. Keystone has already produced over 600 jobs in central Arkansas and would create thousands of ready-to-launch private sector American jobs, while having a minimal impact on the environment. These are the pro-growth decisions that the president promised the American people, and I will continue to work with him to support American energy and job growth.”
Welspun Tubular has been a familiar backdrop for Arkansas politicians promoting their energy policies. Hill and U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy touted Keystone XL during the 2014 campaign against Democrat Pat Hays, who also supported the pipeline.
The vast lots holding miles of unused pipeline in east Little Rock also hosted a joint appearance of then-Senator Mark Pryor (D) in the race against the ultimately victories then-U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton (R). During that stop, Welspun's president said the dormant pipes have already been paid for. But he expected, back in 2014, that more work would come the company's way if Keystone's path cleared.
"Officials with Welspun said over 700 miles of pipeline for the project has already been produced with much of it sitting idle on over 80 acres waiting for approval of the project. Welspun President David Delie said Keystone’s operator TransCanada has already purchased the pipe but if its route were to be approved even more work and workers, between 50 and 200 would be needed on-site.
'Our large diameter facility unfortunately right now is shut down due to lack of orders. One of the problems is the Keystone XL pipeline not being approved. If that pipeline was approved we’d be running this facility right now,' said Delie."
The state's senior U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-Rogers) also issued a statement in support of the President's executive orders.
“I welcome the president’s decision to allow work on the the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines to move forward. The fact that this was one of the first items on President Trump’s agenda speaks volumes about how his administration will prioritize job creation, energy infrastructure and economic opportunity. After years of needless delays and partisan obstruction from the previous administration, it is encouraging to see the president take immediate action that will benefit Americans and our economy.”
All six members of Arkansas's all-Republican congressional delegation have previously voiced support for both pipelines and opposition to slow downs and halts put in place under the previous presidential administration.
Environmental groups have routinely condemned the pipelines for localized threats to water to quality and to worldwide concerns like climate change. In a statement, Arkansas Sierra Club Director Glen Hooks said:
After only four days, President Trump is already proving to be the dangerous threat to our climate we feared he would be. These dangerous and dirty pipelines are an enormous threat to critical waterways and sacred lands. If Donald Trump were truly a good businessman, he would not encourage dirty, dangerous tar sands development when clean energy is growing faster, producing more jobs, and has a real future. Trump claims he cares about the American people, but he’s allowing oil companies to steal and threaten their land by constructing dirty and dangerous pipelines through it. Trump claims he wants to protect people’s clean air and water, but he’s permitting a tar sand superhighway that will endanger both and hasten the climate crisis. The Keystone pipeline was rejected because it was not in the country’s interest, and the environmental review of the Dakota Access Pipeline was ordered because of the threats it poses to the Standing Rock Sioux. Nothing has changed. These pipelines were a bad idea then and they’re a bad idea now. These pipelines are far from being in the clear. The millions of Americans and hundreds of Tribes that stood up to block them in the first place will not be silenced, and will continue fighting these dirty and dangerous projects. Simply put, Donald Trump is exactly who we thought he is: a person who will sell off Americans’ property and Tribal rights, clean air, and safe water to corporate polluters.
"Caren Thompson, a Little Rock attorney who traveled to Standing Rock to be a part of the protest, also spoke against the Diamond pipeline.
“What they’re doing [in Standing Rock] is sacred,” Thompson said of the protestors she met. “They’re water protectors. And that’s what we are. We have to protect our water. It’s life... That’s not some silly phrase. It’s true.”
In keeping with a theme of protest criticizing the desecration of native grounds, some activists noted that the Diamond Pipeline, which will pass through 17 Arkansas counties, intersects a several points with the Trail of Tears.
They said it points to a further disrespect of Native Americans who made the arduous journey through Arkansas to reservations in Oklahoma in the 19th century. "It's going to kill them again," said Skip Smith of Little Rock, who cited the Cherokee origins of his great-grandfather."