by Ramona Marozas and Kate Harrison
The head of a Native American-focused environmental initiative is gearing up for a fight with the incoming Trump administration. Honor the Earth Executive Director Winona LaDuke has strong words about the president-elect’s views on energy development.
LaDuke can claim a victory after the company behind the controversial Sandpiper Pipeline through northern Minnesota – Enbridge Energy Partners – ended that project in September 2016. But there’s no time for her to rest on her laurels.
“None of us expected Donald Trump would be elected,” LaDuke said. “He is not someone that most people in Indian Country would prefer to have in that office – and we’re gonna face a lot of challenges as a result of it. He’s been really anti-Indian all along.”
While many tribal leaders are taking a wait-and-see approach with the incoming president, LaDuke is preparing for a whole new level of conflict over environmental issues. Most pressing is Enbridge’s plan to replace an aging oil pipeline in Minnesota with a higher capacity pipeline.
“What will be happening is Line Three – that’s a 760,000 barrel per day tar sands pipeline coming from Canada.” In addition, LaDuke expresses exasperation that the new leaders of the country take a dim view of climate change research.
“I feel that idiots have been elected in the Presidency, and idiots are appointing more idiots,” LaDuke said. “To believe that climate change does not exist…that’s my opinion.”
LaDuke says environmental proponents will need to work harder and lean on each other more to insulate themselves from the federal political situation.
Paul Eberth however, says any concerns about energy development related to the election are premature. Eberth is the project director for Enbridge. He says market forces play a bigger role in how projects develop.
“You know the energy industry, in general, I think will change over time,” Eberth said. “Not much of an impact the election has on it – is really hard to say.”
Eberth says the market drives fossil fuel development the same way it drives production of renewable energy infrastructure, which they are also investing in.