US President Donald Trump has signed into law a bill that will open up access to oil and gas drilling on federal land and in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, including the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
The legislation, which was passed on Friday, also allows drilling on the lands of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and the Standing Stone Sioux Nation, which the Trump administration has sued for its right to protect its water resources.
The legislation, the first of its kind in the US since the Bush administration, is also the first in more than 20 years to explicitly protect the tribe’s water supply and sacred sites, according to the US Department of the Interior.
The move by Trump, who was in the midst of an energy war with China, is seen by Native Americans and environmental activists as a major victory for the pipeline’s backers.
“I think this is a big deal,” said Chris Loughlin, a tribal leader and author of the book In the Land of Blood and Iron: The Indigenous People of the Dakotas and the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“It’s going to open up all of the land and all of our water to the oil companies and the drillers.”
The legislation is a major win for the Trump era, when he has vowed to use his power as president to overturn many of the Obama administration’s actions.
It also comes amid protests over the pipeline, including by Native American groups, which say the project would pollute tribal water sources and endanger sacred sites.
“It’s just so good,” said Mike Bancroft, a spokesman for the Standing Stearns Sioux Tribe.
“They are going to make it more profitable for them to do this.
I don’t think the tribes have a problem with it.
They just need to work with the government.”
Trump signed the bill in the Oval Office, with his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner present.
He also signed an executive order on Friday that requires the Interior Department to make “significant improvements” to the Keystone XL project, including expediting permits, providing a new pipeline route and building a more permanent oil spill response team.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Bancrrow said that the Trump government was “not going to tolerate this.”
“We are going down this road to fight the pipeline,” he said.
“And I believe that there is enough energy in the country to fight this pipeline.
And I believe it’s a great opportunity.”
Loughlin said he hoped the new legislation would serve as a template for future efforts by the Trump presidency to overturn environmental regulations and regulations on oil and other fossil fuels.
Under the new law, the Interior Secretary can issue permits and direct the construction of the pipeline if the pipeline can demonstrate its potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
But the new act also gives the department the power to impose environmental penalties on oil companies if they do not do their part to reduce the threat of climate change.
While it was not immediately clear whether the president would sign the bill, he had already made clear his support for the controversial project during his campaign.
In January, Trump said that he wanted the Keystone project built, even if it was “the most expensive thing ever”.
“It is absolutely the most expensive pipeline in the world.
It’s the most difficult pipeline in this country,” he told a rally in South Dakota.
“But it will be built.
And we will have the most energy on the planet.”
In September, he said that oil companies could build a pipeline that would carry up to 500,000 barrels of oil a day, or the equivalent of the US’s entire production of oil and natural gas.
“I can build a thing for $5 million,” Trump said at the time.
“I can make a thing that’s going over the Gulf and it’s going all the way to Mexico.
And if we build it, we can build it for $100 a barrel.
And it’s not even going to be a pipeline.”
Loughlock said the bill would give the federal government more flexibility in how it would manage oil and oil-related spills, especially when it comes to the pipelines.
“[The new law] gives the government more of a say in how they manage pipelines,” he added.
“You can have an issue with one pipeline and have a different issue with another.”