Don’t Let Partisan Politics Lead to Bad Energy Policy – Or Drive a Wedge Between Communities

In the run up to the 2020 presidential election, a number of candidates have released policy proposals that could have major implications for our nation’s energy infrastructure.  Some of these policy proposals could actually cause more harm to the environment.

The latest example comes from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who vows to revoke the permits for the Dakota Access (DAPL) and Keystone XL (KXL) pipelines.

From her plan to “Honor and Empower Tribal Nations and Indigenous Peoples”:

Energy development that may affect tribal interests requires true and meaningful consultation with Tribal Nations and real efforts to ensure we are meeting our treaty obligations. And absent extraordinary circumstances, respect for tribal sovereignty means that no project, development or federal decision that will have a significant impact on a tribal community, their lands, resources, members or religious practices, should proceed without the free, prior and informed consent of the Tribal Nation concerned. These interests were not respected in the case of President Trump’s permitting decisions for Keystone XL and Dakota Access. For this and other reasons, I’ll revoke the the (sic) ill-advised and improperly granted permits for the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, and reject permitting of new projects where these processes are not followed.

Sen. Warren’s proposal ignores some inconvenient facts.  Foremost, tribes were in fact consulted when it comes to energy infrastructure development, as we have documented before in the case of DAPL.

A recent article in the Bismarck Tribune discusses how officials in Morton County, North Dakota and members of the Standing Rock community are coming together.  The article notes:

The nearly yearlong Dakota Access Pipeline protests that ended in early 2017 created tension at the border between the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and ranchers in the neighboring county.

But in the two years since protest camps were evacuated and cleaned up, both sides have worked to mend their relationships.

“The people who live here, we do commerce with each other, we do rodeos together, basketball, church, marriages. That goes way back,” said Scott Davis, executive director of the North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission. “I think we’ve recognized that those relationships are still there.”

In response to the protest, Davis set up the Strengthening Government to Government Partnerships and Relationships conference in order to open dialogue between tribes and the state and learn lessons from the #NoDAPL movement. This fall, he’ll host the third annual event with tribes from across the state and government officials, including Gov. Doug Burgum.

“None of us ever want to experience that again,” said Davis, an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

All sides need to remember how dangerous and detrimental the protests were to the Standing Rock Sioux and North Dakotans in surrounding communities.