President Donald Trump signed executive acts Jan. 24 to advance construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, reversing Obama administration environmental policies.
The order hands a potential defeat to clergy who stood last year with Native American tribes protesting what they fear will be the Dakota Access pipeline’s impact on water quality and disruption of sacred grounds at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota.
Baptist News Global reported in November on more than 350 clergy from across the nation helping to block construction of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access line. They scored a victory when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in early December denied an easement to allow tunneling under the nearby Missouri River.
Similar protests in 2011 were credited with helping to persuade President Obama to order a review of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast and ultimately reject the project in 2015.
“More people sent comments against Dakota Access and Keystone XL to the government than any project in history,” said Bill McKibben, co-founder of the climate action group 350.org. “The world’s climate scientists and its Nobel laureates explained over and over why it was unwise and immoral. In one of his first actions as president, Donald Trump ignores all that in his eagerness to serve the oil industry. It’s a dark day for reason, but we will continue the fight.”
President Trump unveiled a new energy plan on the first day of his administration reversing Obama’s climate-change policies and boosting production of oil, natural gas and coal in order to “maximize the use of American resources, freeing us from dependence on foreign oil.”
Creation Justice Ministries, a coalition of organizations including the Alliance of Baptists, American Baptist Churches USA and Progressive National Baptist Convention, said Christians have a “moral responsibility to exercise stewardship over the gifts of God’s creation.”
“Exercising faithful stewardship involves upholding the laws that protect the sources of our drinking water,” said Shantha Ready Alonso, executive director of the program started under the umbrella of The National Council of the Churches USA. “It requires protecting our wilderness areas, parks and monuments, which honor our natural, cultural and spiritual heritage. It means ensuring energy development is done responsibly and only where appropriate.”
Alonso said Christians nationwide “will be watching the President, his Interior and Agricultural Secretaries, and the EPA Administrator to ensure they uphold these fundamental tenets.”