When President-elect Donald Trump assumes office on January 20th, he’ll likely be inheriting one of the most high-profile rights issues in recent memory: The ongoing protests against the Dakota Access oil pipeline by activists at the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota.
This week, Trump made clear that despite the growing chorus of opposition to the pipeline’s construction, he enthusiastically supports the controversial project, and wants to see it completed. The announcement—made by his transition team to supporters and legislative staff, and obtained by Reuters—comes as thousands of military veterans descend on Standing Rock in a show of solidarity with the protesters.
While Trump had been a vocal supporter of the Keystone XL oil pipeline—which President Obama rejected in November, 2015—this week marks the first time he has spoken publicly about the Dakota Access construction.
North Dakota senator John Hoeven (R) applauded Trump’s backing on Thursday, writing in a press release that “we have met with President-elect Trump’s transition team on a range of issues, including the need for the new president to issue an easement for the project.”
“Today,” the statement continued, “Mr. Trump expressed his support for the Dakota Access Pipeline, which has met or exceeded all environmental standards set forth by four states and the Army Corps of Engineers.”
Questions surrounding Trump’s position on the DAPL have been complicated by the revelation that he at one point owned a large number of shares in Energy Transfer Partners—the company behind the pipeline’s construction. According to the Washington Post, Trump’s shares were worth anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million in the spring of 2015, but had dropped to around $50,000 this summer, when Trump reportedly sold the stock. NBC News notes, however, that Energy Transfer CEO Kelcy Warren donated $100,000 to a joint fundraising committee for the Trump campaign, as well as $3,000 to the campaign directly
“I’m 100 percent sure that the pipeline will be approved by a Trump administration,” Warren told NBC in November, shortly after the presidential election. “I believe we will have a government in place that believes in energy infrastructure.”
The Trump transition team memo addressed the issue, noting that the President-elect’s support of the pipeline “has nothing to do with his personal investments and everything to do with promoting policies that benefit all Americans.”
“Those making such a claim are only attempting to distract from the fact that President-elect Trump has put forth serious policy proposals he plans to set in motion on Day One,” it continued.