President Barack Obama said Monday that “jobs and prosperity” trumped the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The president made the remarks during a roundtable discussion on infrastructure at the White House.
The administration has pushed the project as a way to bring jobs to the U.S. But environmental activists say the pipeline will pollute water, threaten wildlife, and pollute sacred sites.
The Obama administration has been working to speed up the pipeline’s construction in a bid to secure funding for the project, but the pipeline opponents say it will harm water and wildlife.
“They are trying to derail our progress and our country’s progress,” Trump said at the roundtable, according to the Associated Press.
“We will continue to be patient and we will be patient with them, and we are going take it to the next level.
But we have to fight for jobs and for prosperity and we have not done that.”
Trump said the administration is “working to expedite the permitting process” and he has instructed Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to expeditiously grant the project’s easement for construction.
“The president is going to get it done and we’re going to be very successful,” Zinke told the AP.
“And it will be a very, very good thing for the country.”
But the president’s remarks come after a federal judge in North Dakota granted a stay in August on the project pending a preliminary injunction.
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its allies are challenging the $3.8 billion Dakota Access project in federal court, arguing that the project is not in the national interest and is not needed for the pipeline to pass through their territory.
The judge in the case has not yet ruled on the injunction and Trump’s comments Monday were an apparent victory for the tribe.
But the judge is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the matter next week.