Transcript: Robert Kennedy Jr., "Trump Has A $2 Million Stake in the Dakota Pipeline" - 17 Nov '16
Thom Hartmann: For tonight's green report we start out right here in Washington, DC, where on Monday the Army Corps of Engineers announced that they were not ready to give their stamp of approval to the final and most controversial section of the Dakota Access Pipeline. That section, which would run under Lake Oahe along the Missouri River, was put on hold by President Obama earlier in the fall, and has been the target of protests ever since. The Army said it needs more time to see how its construction could affect the rights of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe that has lead the anti-pipeline protest movement.
In a statement the Corps said that it "welcomes any input that the Tribe believes is relevant to the proposed pipeline crossing." Not surprisingly, Energy Transfer Partners - the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline - is furious. It believes that it already has a right to build the disputed pipeline section and Tuesday it asked a federal court to intervene in the dispute and recognize that right.
But as Energy Transfers doubles down in defense of the Dakota Access Pipeline, so too protestors and water protectors are doubling down against it. Tuesday saw massive nationwide protests against the $3.8 billion pipeline - as well as renewed efforts by water protectors out in North Dakota. This fight is far from over.
Joining me now is Robert Kennedy Jr., attorney, author, and president of the Waterkeeper Alliance. Robert Kennedy, welcome back.
Robert Kennedy Jr.: Thanks for having me, Thom.
Thom Hartmann: It's always great having you with us, Bobby, it really is. What was the reaction out in North Dakota to the Army Corps announcement? Do they see this is a victory or another delaying mechanism by the government? And by the way, good on you for going out there.
Robert Kennedy Jr.: Well, I think most people felt that it felt like President Obama was kicking the can down the road. And the can is going to end up in the Trump administration and Donald Trump has already said that he's going to give permits to this pipe. He owns two million dollars stake personally in the pipeline. And he said he's going to reopen the XL pipeline and jumpstart that project as well as every other pipeline in the country.
What the Corps of Engineers offered was to hear what the Sioux say, but what they really ought to be saying is, we're going to force Energy Transfer Partners which is the ownership group that owns the Dakota Access Pipeline to comply with the law. The law requires that they do a full environmental impact statement. So it's not just a consulting process, there has to be teeth in it. And the environmental impact statement is required for any project like this.
Thom, it's a 1700 mile pipeline. There's a provision in the National Environmental Policy Act which was our first environmental law and it's our most important environmental law, and that's the law that requires people before they get a federal permit that's going to diminish the value or change the use of federal land or the commons - the publicly owned resource - at first they do a cost-benefit analysis which is called an environmental impact statement.
When Congress passed that law there was an objection that said, well, you know, you have to get a federal permit to put a new piling on a dock. Do we really want people to have to go through a full environmental impact statement process with hearings and comments and all this just to replace an old piling on a dock? So Congress and subsequently the EPA created a special permit called a nationwide permit 17. Nationwide permit 12 is the one that these guys are using. Nationwide permit 12 says if the project is under one acre and it's going to have no significant environmental impact you can get a short form E.I.S. that allows you essentially just to fill out a form and then go ahead and put in the piling.
Well, this company invoked nationwide permit 12 for this 1700 Mile pipe. So they're saying, so what they do is a chicanery, it's a canard, it's, you know, it's, what they're trying to get away with is just, is illegal under the Act. And the way that they did it, Thom, was they segmented the pipe so they they made it into a lot, instead of one long pipe they made it into lots of little pipes and they said we're just going to get nationwide permit 12 for each of these little sections and each one of those incrementally will not change the status quo so we'll be able to say there's no environmental impact.
But NEPA actually has a provision that says you cannot segment. If you're going to do a big project, you have to look at the whole project. You can't pretend it's a bunch of little projects with no environmental impact. This project is huge, it's 1,700 miles. It's only seven miles less than the XL pipeline and the XL pipeline got a full environmental impact statement. It's going to create more carbon pollution than 29 coal-burning power plants. It crosses and disrupts 209 streams and there's all kinds of other problems - cultural areas and Indian graveyards and these kind of things - that it's going to do, any of those individually you'd have to get a full environmental impact statement.
So the idea that these, this company is somehow complying with the law is just wrong. They are the lawbreakers here.
What I was impressed with when I went out to Standing Rock was how disciplined and peaceful the people are. There's a lot of people there but it is an extremely disciplined operation and they make sure, they only allow certain people who are highly trained to visit the pipeline site where the demonstrations are taking place, and make sure those people know how to not return a blow, how to protest peacefully and how to be disciplined and restrained about that.
So, on one side you've got a group of people who are exercising their constitutional right to petition and protest and are doing it peacefully without breaking any laws.
On the other side you have a law-breaking corporation that is shamelessly and openly violating the law.
And the sad part about this whole spectacle is that the police power of the state has been deployed, and when I say police power I mean extremely violent sophisticated military power with acoustic sound guns and pepper spray and teargas and plastic bullets that are being fired into crowds, that is being deployed against a peaceful group on behalf of a law breaking corporation.
Thom Hartmann: That's extraordinary.
This has been framed in the media, even in a lot of progressive media, as a Native American issue primarily. That's not really accurate though is it? It's the Native Americans who are bringing this to our attention.
Robert Kennedy Jr.: No, and the Indians are very clear that they are standing up, they're standing up for their own rights to that territory. And that territory where it's being, where the pipeline is running through is not actually on the official reservation. It's a few feet away from the official reservation but it is part of the reservation that was part of the original treaty of Laramie grant of land where the Treaty of Laramie said that as long as the grass is green, as long as the sky is blue, as long as the rain falls on the planet this land will belong to the Sioux.
And that's what it said. And then, you know, they found gold in the Black Hills and they just said we're not going to pay attention to that anymore. So that the Sioux, the Lakota and the Ogolala and all of the Standing Rock Sioux and all these other Sioux groups have come together. There's actually three hundred Indian groups that are on this site. It's the biggest convocation for a hundred years of Indian nations. And they've all come together. And there's a profound recognition that they're doing something not just for the native people, but they're doing something that is critical for the American people and that is critical for humanity; that they're standing up to a carbon producer that is going to really contribute substantially to the destruction of the planet, the destruction of civilization and humanity.
And one of the remarks that I made, you know, when they said, well isn't it important that we have energy independence in this country? This oil is not going to America. That's why they don't want to do the environmental impact statement, Thom, because an environmental impact statement is a cost-benefit analysis and they would have to show how many jobs are we producing, where is the energy, is the oil going? You know, until recently it was illegal to export crude oil but they had that law changed, that 40 year old law, and this oil is going to China. And because they can't sell it here they're going to ship it, and what this project is going to do is it's going to enrich a few billionaires like Donald Trump who owns a two-million-dollar stake in it, but it's going to impoverish the rest of the country and it's going to injure humanity profoundly.
And one of the things that I asked, you know, when they, a reporter asked there, said, isn't this important for national security? And I said to him, ask the Pentagon that. Ask the Pentagon what is a larger threat to America's national security - Isis, to which we're devoting all of these resources, or global warming, to which we're devoting very few? Because the Pentagon, Thom, has already answered that question in a comprehensive document by the National Security Agency and the Pentagon that said the biggest threat to civilization, the biggest threat, long-term threat, to American security, is climate change.
And so why aren't we paying the same amount of attention to this risk - which is a much greater risk - as we are to, you know, the so-called terror risk of Isis?
Thom Hartmann: Yeah, this this is extraordinary. Is there anything that President Obama could do to stop this?
Robert Kennedy Jr.: Yeah, I mean, the president, the natives are very, very sophisticated about what they're asking. They're not asking that President Obama kill this pipeline project. They're simply asking that President Obama force the pipeline group Energy Transfer Partners and the Corps of Engineers to do a full Environmental Impact Statement, just to obey the law, that's all they want. They want them to obey the law. The law requires they do a full EIS and that's all they're asking Obama to order. And if he orders that, Donald Trump cannot reverse it. They still have to do the full EIS and if they had to do the full EIS, Thom, the project would never go.
And it's not just because we the environmentalists and the attorneys like me could go out and stop them in the courts, it is because the American people wouldn't tolerate it if they actually saw what the true costs and benefits of this project are to the American people. Because what they'll see is, yeah, there's very few jobs produced, like as with the XL pipeline it's 30 or 40 jobs. It is a critical danger to the water supply of 18 million people and the biggest agricultural area on the planet which relies on that water and we know the pipe's going to spill. It's a hundred percent certain it will spill and it's going to make, it's going to enrich a few billionaires and it's going to impose costs on the rest of America. So once people see that in black and white, once we have a document, that's how we killed the XL pipeline.
Thom Hartmann: That's the end of it.
Robert Kennedy Jr.: We got them to do a real EIS and everybody said, oh my gosh, this is not going to produce 20,000 jobs, it's going to produce 35 jobs. You know, what's the point?
Thom Hartmann: Yeah. Right. Bobby, we're out of time but I got it. Brilliant work! Thank you so much for sharing that with us, Robert.
Robert Kennedy Jr.: Thank you, Thom.
Thom Hartmann: Robert F. Kennedy Jr., president of Waterkeeper Alliance.
Transcribed by Sue Nethercott.