First official acts of new US administration

Biden stops pipeline project on indigenous land (Press Release)

On the very day of his inauguration, the new President of the United States, Joseph Biden, withdrew the permit for the construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline (KXL). In doing so, he acceded demands of Native Americans who live along the construction route and fear that the pipeline project will contaminate the water in the pipeline's catchment area.

"Right at the beginning of his term, Biden is implementing one of his key campaign promises, thus setting an example for climate and environmental protection. It is encouraging to see that he is trying to heal the many wounds Donald Trump inflicted on the Native Americans," stated Yvonne Bangert, expert on indigenous communities at the Society for Threatened Peoples.

According to indigenous self-organizations such as the Lakota People's Law Project, the decision to stop the KXL project is a promising sign regarding the new government policy – as it shows that climate action and indigenous rights are taken seriously. They insist that the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) project should be stopped immediately as well. This project had been stopped by Obama at the end of his second term, and Trump had immediately reopened it.

When President Obama stopped the KXL-project, he stated that it was counterproductive to efforts to combat the climate crisis. As one of his first decisions, Trump had lifted that moratorium again, declaring the pipeline construction one of the top priorities of his administration – provided that the pipeline tubes were built by US companies and with US steel. "Now, as Biden decided to lift Trump's order again, history is repeating itself. Hopefully, this will put an end to the to-and-fro: the project is harmful to the climate and to the indigenous people, and it has to be stopped completely," Bangert emphasized.

The KXL project is supposed to transport oil from the tar sands oil fields in northern Alberta, Canada, to refineries in Texas in the United States. In the process, it crosses the lands of several indigenous communities who complain that they were not included in the planning process.

Three years ago, the battle over the DAPL made headlines around the world. Over nearly a year, from April 2016 to February 2017, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe living near the small town of Cannon Ball had mobilized against the pipeline because it poses a major threat to the Missouri River and the Lake Oahe drinking water reservoir – the only drinking water reserves for 17 million people in this region. Originally, the pipeline was supposed to bypass Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota. Following an intervention of the City Hall, the route was moved to the border of the Standing Rock Reservation. The Standing Rock Sioux were presented with a fait accompli.