Indian Country Today

President-elect Joe Biden is wasting no time reversing the climate and energy policies of President Donald Trump. The incoming administration signaled Monday that it will end United States backing of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The Biden plan, reported by the Canadian Broadcasting Company, makes the case that supporting the $8 billion pipeline no longer works in the era of climate change. The 1,210 mile structure was supposed to deliver tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to the midwest and eventually ports on the Gulf Coast.

Tribes along the route have mostly been opposed to the project. Just this month the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and the Fort Belknap Indian Community filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Interior for issuing a permit for the pipeline. The tribes said the Interior Department did not seek tribal consultation before green lighting the project.

Last week, another group, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, said 75 Indigenous women from tribes and nations across the country sent a letter to the incoming administration to stop Keystone XL on day one.

“All of these pipelines are moving forward without the Free Prior and Informed Consent of Indigenous Tribes and Nations, violating Indigenous rights, and further contributing to the destruction of sacred waters and lands, and our global climate,” the letter said.

The Lakota People’s Law Project cheered the news. “This is a pivot point in history: either we start recognizing the health of our Earth as the basis of civilization and progress, or we will find ourselves rich now at the expense of grinding poverty soon,” said the Lakota People’s Law Lead Counsel Chase Iron Eyes.

“We in Lakota Country relate to the shutting down of KXL as a first step: next should come the Dakota Access pipeline, a tortured and dangerous piece of infrastructure that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe continues to fight in court.”

Iron Eyes said he faced six years in prison in 2017 because of resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“And others are still in custody because of their non-violent actions. Our struggle continues now. In December of 2016, Obama’s Army Corps of Engineers determined that construction of DAPL should cease while a full environmental impact statement was conducted. Trump — probably illegally — used his executive authority to override that science-based decision his second day in office,” he said. “The National Environmental Policy Act must be respected, now that President-elect Biden is arriving in Washington. We will keep the pressure on.”

In a way, the decision by the Biden administration is a mirror image of what happened four years ago when Trump took office and brought back to life the Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“That was his 1st white supremacist act as president,” Dallas Goldtooth tweeted Monday. “If @JoeBiden stops KXL but does not stop DAPL? Then THAT IS NOT A VICTORY. They are joint struggles.”

The Biden administration has called climate change an “existential threat — not just to our environment, but to our health, our communities, our national security, and our economic well-being.”

Biden’s Build Back Better plan is specific about the policy choices ahead: “We have the opportunity to build a more resilient, sustainable economy — one that will put the United States on an irreversible path to achieve net-zero emissions, economy-wide, by no later than 2050.”

The government of Canada is not happy about the Biden shift on Keystone XL.

Canada's ambassador to Washington Kirsten Hillman told Politico that Canada continues to support the project and that it “fits within Canada’s climate plan. It will also contribute to U.S. energy security and economic competitiveness.”

In his first hours as president, Joe Biden plans to take executive action to roll back some of the most controversial decisions of his predecessor and to address the raging coronavirus pandemic, his incoming chief of staff said Saturday. 

On Wednesday, following his inauguration, Biden will end Trump's restriction on immigration to the U.S. from some Muslim-majority countries, move to rejoin the Paris climate accord and mandate mask-wearing on federal property and during interstate travel.

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The Associated Press contributed to this story.