Biden Signs Executive Orders to Restore Public Lands and Waters, Revoke Keystone Pipeline Permit

By Dan Bacher | 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Yesterday just-sworn in President Joe Biden signed a series of executive orders to reverse some of the worst environmental decisions of the Trump Administration, highlighted by his revoking of the Keystone X permit issued under Trump.

Immediately following his inauguration on January 20, President Biden signed Executive Orders that take “critical first steps to address the climate crisis, create good union jobs, and advance environmental justice, while reversing the previous administration’s harmful policies,” according to a fact sheet issued by the Department of Interior under Biden as President.

One of President Biden’s Executive Orders requires the Interior Department to conduct a review of the monument boundaries and conditions of the Grand Staircase-Escalante, Bears Ears, Northeast Canyons, and Seamounts Marine National Monuments. The order directs Interior, in consultation with other agencies and Tribal governments, to determine whether restoration of the monument boundaries and conditions would be appropriate.

“The Executive Order also places a temporary moratorium on activities related to the implementation of the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge pending legal and policy review. Pursuant to section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the Executive Order also restores the original withdrawal of certain offshore areas in Arctic waters and the Bering Sea from oil and gas drilling,” said Interior.

The Interior Department will immediately begin to implement the orders, and make recommendations to the President as directed.

The Interior Department has issued a Secretarial Order that “temporarily elevates review of relevant agency decisions, including final agency actions, regulatory actions, and energy development. During the 60-day window that the Order may be in effect, decision-making over these matters will be reserved for Department leadership for the purposes of reviewing questions of fact, law, and policy they raise.”

The Order does not impact existing ongoing operations under “valid leases and does not preclude the issuance of leases, permits and other authorizations by those specified. In addition, any actions necessary in the event of an incident that might pose a threat to human health, welfare, or safety will continue.”

“The President also took swift action to begin an urgent, robust, and professional response to the growing public health and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus outbreak. An additional Executive Order will help slow the spread of the virus by asking all of us to do our part and requiring masks and physical distancing. The Interior Department will have additional department-specific guidance in the days and weeks to come,” Interior concluded.

Biden officially revoked the permit for the Keystone Pipeline yesterday, a move welcomed by the Indigenous Environmental Network, Movement Rights and other indigenous and environmental justice groups across the country. The Executive Order states:

Sec. 6.  Revoking the March 2019 Permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline.  (a)  On March 29, 2019, the President granted to TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, L.P. a Presidential permit (the “Permit”) to construct, connect, operate, and maintain pipeline facilities at the international border of the United States and Canada (the “Keystone XL pipeline”), subject to express conditions and potential revocation in the President’s sole discretion.  The Permit is hereby revoked in accordance with Article 1(1) of the Permit.

However, leaders of both the Indigenous Environmental Network and the Movement Rights campaign pointed out that the battles against Line 3, the Dakota Access Pipeline and other fossil fuel projects have yet to be won.

“This tar sands project, owned by TC Energy, has been challenged by the Indigenous Environmental Network since its first permit hearings back in 2010,” said the Indigenous Environmental Network in a statement. “While this is a substantial victory for the Indigenous peoples who have been in this fight for over a decade, we must not forget about our relatives fighting Line 3, the Dakota Access Pipeline and other fossil fuel projects poisoning our communities and fueling the climate emergency. Tonight we dance, tomorrow we continue the work.”

Casey Camp Horinek, an Elder and the Environmental Ambassador for the Ponca Nation of Oklahoma who leads the Movement Rights Ponca and Indigenous Rights of Nature campaigns, also commented on the Inauguration yesterday in a letter to Biden:

“I congratulate you and Vice President Harris on choosing to launch your Administration by taking some powerful steps for the climate and Mother Earth. Halting the Keystone XL pipeline and drilling leases in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge is a great beginning and we acknowledge that. As Environmental Ambassador for my people, the Ponca Nation of Oklahoma, we appreciate that our ancestral territory and the Ogallala Aquifer is being better protected from destructive oil and gas activities. This is only a small step in the right direction. I urge you to use your Executive power to also end the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and Line 3 in your first week. 

The caretaking of the Earth and Sky is in our hands, for humans are the only species who have defied the laws of Nature in a quest to conquer and own them. We must not only recognize the rights of humans to a clean environment, but the Rights of Nature itself—to evolve, thrive and continue its vital cycles—the Sacred Creation of which humans are only a small part. In keeping with our ancestral knowledge, Indigenous Peoples have stood firmly against the exploitation of the Canadian tar sands. We have laid our bodies on the line when your predecessors approved pipelines from Alberta through our territories—not only the Keystone XL but the DAPL, Line 3 and others.”

To read the full letter, go to: Movement Rights, MOVEMENTRIGHTS.ORG

It remains to see what Biden’s positions are on on the environmentally destructive Delta Tunnel, along with the Sites Reservoir, the Shasta Dam raise and voluntary agreements.

Newsom doesn’t officially support the Shasta Dam Raise, but he is forging ahead with the Delta Tunnel, Sites Reservoir and the voluntary agreements that a coalition of fishermen, Tribes, environmental justice advocates, conservationists, Delta residents, Southern California water ratepayers and elected officials strongly oppose.

As I receive updates on Biden’s environmental policies as they unfold, I will post them here.

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