Trump Reverses Obama on Major Pipeline Projects

President adds 'buy American' provision to Keystone XL construction, moves to speed up environmental reviews

by Brendan Kirby | Updated 24 Jan 2017 at 1:49 PM

President Trump on Tuesday reversed his predecessor on a pair of major pipeline projects and moved to cut the red tape that slows major construction projects.

Former President Barack Obama, after years of review, rejected an application to build the Keystone XL Pipeline connecting Canadian shale oil fields to U.S. refiners along the Gulf Coast. Obama also last year halted construction on the 1,168-mile Dakota Access Pipeline amid concerns that it was cutting through sacred Native American land.

“We’re going to renegotiate some of the terms, and if they’d like, we’ll see if we can get that pipeline built. A lot of jobs — 28,000 jobs. Great construction jobs.”

“It’s subject to a renegotiation of terms by us,” Trump said in a White House ceremony as he affixed his signature to the Keystone order. “We’re going to renegotiate some of the terms, and if they’d like, we’ll see if we can get that pipeline built. A lot of jobs — 28,000 jobs. Great construction jobs.”

Trump also said the Dakota Access Pipeline would be subject to renegotiation.

Trump signed a third order mandating that the pipes used for the project be manufactured in the United States — “like we used to in the old days,” he added.

“We are, and I am, very insistent that if we’re going to build pipelines in the United States, the pipes should be made in the United States,” he said.

Trump said he wants to speed up the permitting process for businesses.

“This is about streamlining the incredibly cumbersome, long, horrible permitting process and reducing regulatory burdens for domestic manufacturers … If it’s a ‘no,’ we’ll give them a quick ‘no,'” he said.

The final order signed by Trump Tuesday takes aim at the “tangled-up mess” of lengthy and environmental reviews for “high-priority” infrastructure projects.

“We can’t be in an environmental process for 15 years if a bridge is going to be falling down or if a highway is crumbling,” he said.

Energy advocates welcomed the president’s action, which drew outrage from environmental activists.

“Unfortunately, it’s long overdue, but we’re going to get the green light on these projects,” The Heritage Foundation economist Nicolas Loris told LifeZette. “All scientific and technological reason was on the side of this.”

Loris said pipelines unquestionably are the safest and most environmentally friendly way to move oil over long distances.

Jack Gerard, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, said in a prepared statement that both projects would benefit consumers and workers.

"We are pleased to see the new direction being taken by this administration to recognize the importance of our nation's energy infrastructure by restoring the rule of law in the permitting process that's critical to pipelines and other infrastructure projects," he stated. "Critical energy infrastructure projects like the Keystone XL and the Dakota Access pipelines will help deliver energy to American consumers and businesses safely and efficiently."

Added American Energy Association President Thomas Pyle: "President Trump is wasting no time implementing the pro-growth energy policies he talked about on the campaign trail. More importantly, with these actions today, President Trump is signaling that the federal government will once again honor the rule of law."

Stopping the pipelines became something of a litmus test on the Left during the Obama years, and Democratic candidates for president campaigned against both projects. On Tuesday, Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica vowed to fight the projects.

"Donald Trump has made it clear that his America does not include the millions of Americans who fought to protect our land, water, sacred cultural sites and climate from dangerous pipelines," he said in a prepared statement. "Trump has emphatically pledged his allegiance to the oil companies and Wall Street banks that stand to profit from the destruction of public health and the environment."

Loris said the president has some leeway to speed up environmental reviews. But he added that amending the National Environmental Policy Act would have the greatest impact, and that would require legislation.

"Real reform needs to come from Congress," he said.

Loris criticized the "buy American" order signed by Trump. That could encourage more manufacturing in the United States but could make projects more expensive. Those costs would be spread to consumers, he said.

"That could be dangerous in both the short term and the long term … That's not the way to create prosperity," he said.

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