Trump executive orders may revive Dakota Access, Keystone XL projects

US President Donald J. Trump signed executive orders aimed at reviving the Dakota Access and Keystone XL crude oil pipeline projects, but it was not immediately clear how quickly their consequences will be felt. Oil and gas industry groups and others that supported the projects applauded the Jan. 24 move nevertheless as environmental organizations and other opponents expressed their disgust.

“We’re going to renegotiate some of the terms, and if they are satisfactory, we’re going to see if we can get this pipeline built,” Trump said at the White House before signing the executive order covering Keystone XL (KXL). Moments later, he signed one covering Dakota Access, “again, subject to terms and conditions negotiated by us.”

Soon after, he signed a third order requiring that US-manufactured steel be used in such projects. “This is going to be difficult because a lot of companies will need time to gear up,” Trump said. “But it will put thousands of steelworkers back to work. We will build our own pipeline. We will build our own pipes, like we used to in the old days.”

His actions clearly were intended to reverse decisions made by the Obama administration to deny sponsor TransCanada Corp. a cross-border permit for KXL after years of delays, and to order the US Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) to withdraw a permit it issued for an unconstructed Dakota Access segment following protests by the Standing Rock Sioux Indian tribe (OGJ Online, Nov. 6, 2015; Dec. 5, 2016).

“We appreciate the president of the US inviting us to reapply for KXL. We are currently preparing the application and intend to do so,” TransCanada said in an e-mailed statement to OGJ. Sunoco Logistics Partners LP, which acquired Dakota Access sponsor Energy Transfer Partners in November did not comment immediately on the president’s moves (OGJ Online, Nov. 21, 2016).

‘Restoring rule of law’

Oil and gas industry and other business leaders applauded Trump’s actions. “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,” noted American Petroleum Institute Pres. Jack N. Gerard.

“We thank President Trump for giving the American people the benefits of jobs and plentiful, affordable energy that pipelines will bring,” Association of Oil Pipe Lines Pres. Andrew J. Black said, noting that the orders also contain language aimed at streamlining the federal approval process for such projects.

American Fuel & Petrochemicals Manufacturers Pres. Chet Thompson also applauded Trump’s actions on the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipeline projects. “Both projects are good for the country, received the required environmental approvals, and never should have been delayed,” he said.

“For too long, private infrastructure investment has been held hostage by government interference driven by fringe interests,” said Karen A. Harbert, president of the US Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy. “Today’s executive orders demonstrate that we finally have an administration that is serious about putting American energy to work for the entire economy.”

National Association of Manufacturers Pres. Jay Timmons said, “The president’s actions are exactly the type of change manufacturers voted for in November. This is a signal that this administration is committed to creating the right environment to move forward on important energy infrastructure projects. President Trump has kept his promise with today’s decisions, and they are another clear sign that Washington is open for business.”

Other groups expressed their approval. “In signing the Keystone XL and Dakota Access executive orders, President Trump is following through on his campaign promise to reverse the previous administration’s approach of abusing the regulatory process to pursue a political agenda,” American Council for Capital Formation Vice-Pres. of Communications Robert Dillon said.

Jobs, economic opportunities

“Everyone—families, farmers, manufacturers, distributors, and small businesses—will benefit from the decision to green-light a pair of pipelines that will help cash-strapped families lower costs, especially the tens of millions living on a fixed income or below the poverty line,” Consumer Energy Alliance Pres. David Holt said in Houston. “These pipelines will create both immediate jobs and long-term economic opportunities for Americans across the nation”

Institute for Policy Innovation Resident Scholar Merrill Matthews in Dallas said, “President Trump has been successful in keeping a few thousand jobs in the US, but his action on the [KXL] pipeline alone will actually create what the State Department estimates is upwards of 42,000 jobs.”

In Bismarck, ND, Gov. Doug Burgum (R) said Trump’s order directing federal agencies to expedite the Dakota Access project’s review and approval process “has moved this important infrastructure project one step closer to completion.” He asked that the Trump administration provide federal law enforcement resources to help uphold the law and protect people and property rights as the project moves toward completion under Lake Oahe.

The state’s two US senators, Republican John Hoeven and Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, also issued Jan. 24 statements applauding Trump’s Dakota Access and Keystone XL executive orders. Another Senate Democrat, Jeff Merkley (Ore.), blasted the president’s moves. “The proposed [pipelines] have inspired unprecedented grassroots opposition, and for good reason: They would turn on the tap to the dirtiest fossil fuels in the world while threatening drinking water,” he asserted.

Congressional Republican leaders expressed their approval. “For far too long, politics have been inserted into the basic functions of government,” Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John A. Barrasso (Wyo.) said. “If we are going to grow our economy, Washington must provide a timely and predicable permitting process. These projects will create jobs and improve our nation’s energy security.”

In the House of Representatives, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (Ore.), Energy Subcommittee Chairman Fred Upton (Mich.), and Environment Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (Ill.) jointly said that they welcomed the pipeline orders and looked forward “to working with a president and an administration that value American energy affordability, jobs, security, and new infrastructure development.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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