President Donald Trump has issued executive orders to revive the Keystone XL pipeline and to move forward with the Dakota Access pipeline, projects that have been the focus of major protests by climate change activists and Native American groups.
In a further sign of Trump’s intention to dismantle former President Barack Obama’s environmental legacy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has temporarily frozen the issuance of grants and contracts and issued tight restrictions on EPA employees speaking to the press or communicating via social media.
In late 2015, Obama killed the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would have transported heavily polluting tar sands oil from Alberta to oil refineries along the Gulf of Mexico. The Obama administration also refused to grant approval to a key section of the Dakota Access pipeline, which is designed to carry oil from the Bakken shale region in North Dakota across Standing Rock Sioux land to Gulf Coast refineries. With his executive orders, Trump has signaled his intention to move forward with both projects.
Meanwhile, the recent EPA decision will temporarily freeze grants and contracts that fund everything from toxic cleanups to water quality testing. Administration officials said the freeze is intended to make sure that no programs move forward without first being reviewed by Trump’s new team.
Strict controls on external communications have also been enacted at the Department of Agriculture’s main research division, the Agriculture Research Service, which studied sensitive topics such as pesticides, genetically modified food, and climate change under the Obama administration.