Just as the frenzied protest to Prime Minister Trudeau’s approval of twinning Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline was picking up momentum over the weekend with a plethora of promised legal challenges piling up on top of those already filed, the anti-pipeline movement to the south of the border was handed a victory — albeit most likely a temporary one — by the Obama administration, which has decreed that construction of the last section of the Dakota pipeline will not proceed until a substantial environmental reassessment has taken place including a look at alternate routes away from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s reservation. The 5,000-person protest camp at the Standing Rock reservation — the main site of the pipeline opposition that has become symbolic of the fight to protect Indigenous rights worldwide — erupted in celebration on Sunday, December 4th while the pipeline industry and its supporters responded with a wave of disdain, calling the decision purely political with no substance since President-Elect Donald Trump is slated to take office at the end of January and will most likely undo it. Trump has been outspoken in his support for the pipeline, support that underscores his campaign promises to fire up the United States’ fossil fuel industry to make “America Great Again”.
While Obama’s order to halt the final stretch of pipeline construction shows unprecedented consideration for the impassioned pleas of the Standing Rock Sioux, their supporters (including thousands of U.S. veterans), and international pressure inflamed by the brute force private security companies have used against the unarmed peaceful protesters, he knows full well that Trump has the political agenda and necessary options available to him to allow the pipeline to proceed as planned when he takes office.
Regardless of what the final outcome may be, the Dakota pipeline standoff has set the stage for a Canadian version, with Kinder Morgan protesters feeling very much in solidarity with their American counterparts. The irony of the northern version is that — with the Northern Gateway axed — the Trans Mountain pipeline approval was a concession to Alberta’s — and Canada’s — oil industry, and to Alberta’s premier, who successfully demanded a pipeline as a prerequisite to a national price on carbon, but is now coming under fire for having even implemented a provincial carbon tax in the first place. No one is happy, with climate change being the polarizing factor. It’s a Jumbo Glacier Resort-style situation of national and international proportions with no end in sight.