Looks like the Keystone XL and DAPL are back on the menu. Yep, the US is definitely under a new presidency right now. Honestly, I don’t really know what to say. On Tuesday January 24th, the president of the United States of America signed two executive actions (possibly???) advancing the Keystone XL pipeline and the DAPL- time to dust off those #NoDAPL tweets. Now, I just need to understand this all, so if you feel the same, come along with me.
First off, I don’t really know what an executive action is. In my mind, no one person can hold absolute power, be they the president or not. So what is the actual power behind an executive action? Fortunately, they are not executive orders, which are apparently legally binding orders from the president. These actions, on the other hand, are more like position papers. They are nonbinding, contain no legal ramifications, and are meant to just direct people toward what the president wants. It’s like a wishlist you’d send off to Santa. You might want that new Red Rider BB Gun, but if Congress thinks you’re going to shoot your eye out with it, chances are nothing will come of it.
Unfornately, these documents might not actually be executive actions- contrary to what I’ve seen in the news.
There’s also something called presidential memoranda- just to make things even more confusing. Memoranda do carry legal weight, directing different parts of the government. They are about delegating tasks towards a certain goal. They don’t necessarily have the power or prestige of orders, but they do have more power than actions.
Now, yes this is all really confusing, and infuriating- more so because it doesn’t seem like anyone seems to give a shit on how they use these words when reporting. Seriously. If you try and search these signed documents on DAPL and the Keystone XL, or even the other ones on international funding for abortions or the TPP, you’ll notice that nothing makes any goddamn sense. First off, everyone seems to use actions and orders fairly interchangeably- which just isn’t right. I guess they’re thinking executive actions, as in actions of an executive nature, and not Executive Actions, as in the actual type of documents. Honestly, who the hell knows. News outlets can’t even seem to get it right at all, and it’s currently driving me up the wall- some have even used both terms for the same document, in the same god forsaken article. Hell, the president doesn’t even know what he’s signing.
According to the White House website, the documents concerning the the Keystone XL and DAPL that were signed, were presidential memoranda- not executive actions or executive orders. And that’s important for two reasons:
1. We need to know what the fuck type of a document is being signed! In order to properly voice your opinion and fight for the environment (or for anything), you have to know what is being done to harm it. If the news is not reporting things accurately and correctly, we as the citizens (or in this case the people of America, but across the board in any country, people need to be given the true facts) won’t know what is actually being done by the government- and that’s dangerous. And I’m not talking about false news, alternative facts, or any other type of headline grabbing, clickbaity bullshit. I’m talking about properly editing a news article, and doing the job you get paid to do. As Thomas Jefferson has said, cause Americans love their founding fathers, “The cornerstone of democracy rests on the foundation of an educated electorate.” News stations and organisations have a responsibility to this and to us.
2. The different document types hold differing amounts of legal weight, and are different things. They’re not interchangeable or synonymous with each other. We could shrug off an action, cause it’s essentially the same as their platform leading up to presidency- their positions on a range of topics, or a list of things they’d like to do. Orders and memoranda can’t really be shrugged off. It’s imperative that people, and the politicians representing these people, actively work to reverse them if they are bad. Especially in this case, where I think most people would agree that they are bad.
The big take away here is that these documents aren’t the be all and end all. It’s not one of those, “when I say jump, you say how high” types of situations. Sure, it might have seemed like the work was done with both of these pipelines, that they weren’t being made, but the new reality of this situation is that it’s time to once again mobilise ourselves, and get back to work. These pipelines have been stopped before, and they can be stopped again. We need to make sure that the politicians understand the dangers to both human health and the environment that pipelines pose, and get them to reverse these memoranda before they truly start to take affect.