- The Washington Times - Monday, December 5, 2016

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a North Dakota Democrat under consideration for the Trump cabinet, said Monday that the Dakota Access oil pipeline will be finished after President-elect Donald Trump takes office, calling the fight to stop the project “not winnable.”

“When you look at it, we know one thing for sure, that when the administration changes, the easement is going to be approved,” Ms. Heitkamp said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “I think president-elect Trump said that.”

Ms. Heitkamp, who has been mentioned as a possible Interior Secretary or Energy Secretary, predicted that Mr. Trump would give the go-ahead to the $3.8 billion pipeline, which was granted a federal easement in July following a two-year review process before the major protests began.

“I believe that the pipeline is going to be built,” Ms. Heitkamp said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced late Sunday that it would look at rerouting the final 1,100 feet remaining in North Dakota, which requires federal approval, after months of protests led by the Standing Rock Sioux and national environmental groups.

The tribe has raised concerns about the oil pipeline’s impact on water quality and historic relics, but supporters have argued that the current route is ideal in that it avoids the reservation and runs alongside a 30-year-old natural-gas pipeline.

SEE ALSO: Dakota Access pipeline: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denies easement

The transition team said Thursday that Mr. Trump’s support for the pipeline has nothing to do with his investment in Energy Transfer Partners, which is building the 1,172-mile, four-state project, “and everything to do with promoting policies that benefit all Americans.”

Placing the moderate Democrat Heitkamp in the cabinet is seen as a savvy political move in that it would allow Republican Gov.-elect Doug Burgum to choose her successor, thus boosting the GOP’s Senate majority.

Ms. Heitkamp, who has pressed the Obama administration to provide more resources for the state as it grapples with the protests, avoided taking a position on the pipeline but criticized protesters involved in the national “keep-it-in-the-ground” movement, which seeks to stop fossil-fuel extraction.

“It’s so critically important that we live in the real world and we not live in the world of ideology,” Ms. Heitkamp said. “And I can tell you, of the factions out there, there’s a large number of people who are ‘leave it in the ground,’ who think we should shut down all fossil fuel.”

“I think people who work in the fossil fuel industry feel that, whether they’re coal miners or they’re oil workers, and I think that kind of alignment with leave it in the ground and not looking at all of the above energy policy has had an effect,” she said.

Standing Rock Sioux chairman David Archambault II cheered the Obama administration’s decision to examine rerouting the pipeline even as environmental groups have called for the project to be nixed altogether.

Ms. Heitkamp also stressed her support for the well-being of Indian Country.

“I want you to understand that a lot of my career has been spent working with my friends in Indian Country, and trying to improve conditions for Native American children, for Indian people, and so I understand the frustration of the protesters,” Ms. Heitkamp said. “I just think that this fight is not winnable, and that we need to get down to doing the things that will make a difference in the next generation for Indian people.”

The pipeline, which would transport about a half-billion barrels of crude daily from the Bakken field to Illinois, is more than 90 percent complete.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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