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Native Americans, NRDC Planning Opposition to Trump Administration on Pipelines, Enviro Rules

Native American and a national environmental group separately outlined plans Monday to resist the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back regulations and build more oil and gas pipeline projects.

Called the "indigenous leaders' response" to the Trump administration's actions to ensure the Dakota Access (DAPL) and Keystone XL oil pipeline projects are not built, Native American tribal leaders from around the United States and Canada held a conference call that labeled the actions "an attack on indigenous peoples' rights."

The administration’s actions are viewed with alarm on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border, according to Dallas Goldtooth, who runs the U.S.-based Indigenous Environmental Network.

"It is very disconcerting to see a complete disregard for [tribal] treaty rights and the rights of Native American  communities to self-determine their own path on clean energy,” Goldtooth said.

Regarding Keystone XL, Goldtooth said there is no legal route through Nebraska for the project and a new application must be made to that state regulatory commission. Similarly, the route in South Dakota is being challenged and has to be re-examined, he said.

Representatives from the Canada-based Athabasca Chippewayan First Nation, the U.S.-based Ihanktowan Treaty Council and the Cheyenne River Sioux outlined plans they plan to take, which would be done "peacefully, but forcefully."

Canada's Athabasca representative Eriel Deranger called the administration’s push to build the oil pipelines "a tipping point -- politically, environmentally and economically -- and on a grander scale humanity is tipping the scales of justice right now, and various marginalized communities are crying out that in the name of justice something must be done."

Deranger and other representatives stressed the need for more cohesive action and opposition, alleging that tribal water and land access is being threatened.

"These pipelines are a direct threat to the Sioux Nation," said Joye Braun of the Cheyenne River Sioux. "We have the right to oppose these pipelines, not only because they are a threat to the waterways and the land, but also to our people. We will stand and fight using nonviolent, peaceful methods, such as prayer."

Separately on Monday, representatives from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in California outlined in a conference call how they plan to push back.

While acknowledging vulnerable areas even for California, NRDC’s Ralph Cavanagh, co-director of the group’s energy program, said for the most part California has demonstrated that climate change measures can work, citing its cap-and-trade program and stringent fuel standards for vehicles.

"The reason we are confident that California will continue to prosper is the fact that [the state] was never doing its climate initiative as an act of altruism; it was always about enlightened self-interest," Cavanagh said. "The principal reason underlying the continued success of California's energy transition” to renewables, “is that it is cheaper than the alternatives."

Cavanagh said he thinks climate change initiatives will continue regardless of who is in the White House. "The clean energy transition has been irrevocably underway for the better part of two decades now. Turning it back now would mean exposing American consumers to higher energy bills."

To questions about California's leadership on climate matters and clean energy making it a bigger target and vulnerable now, Cavanagh said the state's aggressive policies have worked.

State leaders, he said, “have delivered results that are actually creating momentum elsewhere -- not because people think California is uniquely gifted, but because they can see it is working."

NRDC’s Victoria Rome, California legislative director, pointed out that Gov. Jerry Brown and the state legislature are committed to maintaining state climate laws.

"They have sent a strong signal that they will work with the federal government wherever we can, but in other areas, we are going to protect our citizens and move forward."

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