United States President Donald Trump have given energy projects such as the TransCanada Keystone XL oil pipeline a fresh start as he asserts his executive power and insists his exercise of presidential authority is not subject to judicial review.
Last month, the President issued a new permit for the stalled Keystone project, which would move Alberta crude to U.S. refineries. With the support of business groups, President Trump signed two executive orders this week designed to speed up oil and gas pipeline projects. They come after officials in Washington state and New York have increasingly used the permitting process to stop new energy projects over the last decade.
The first order clarifies the President alone has authority to issue permits for cross-border projects such as pipelines. Until now, the Secretary of State has the authority to issue permits for cross-border infrastructure. The second order makes it harder for states to block pipelines and other energy projects on the basis of environmental concerns and eases the process for energy projects that cross international borders. The order also directs the Transportation Secretary to propose a rule allowing liquefied natural gas to be shipped in approved rail tank cars and directs the Labour Secretary to review whether investment fund managers who invest based on social goals are fulfilling their responsibility to maximize shareholder returns.
“Too often badly needed energy infrastructure is being held back by special interest groups, entrenched bureaucracies and radical activists,” President Trump said. He singled out New York for his harshest criticism, saying “obstruction” by the state “was hurting the country.” One of President Trump’s executive orders calls for the EPA to consult with states, tribes, and others before issuing new guidance and rules for states on how to comply with the law.
Nearly a dozen business groups told Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler that the environmental review and permitting process for energy projects “has become a target for environmental activists and states that oppose the production and use of fossil fuels.” In their April 5 letter, the groups said individual states shouldn’t be able to use provisions of the Clean Water Act “to dictate national policy, thereby harming other states and the national interest and damaging co-operative federalism.” The Trump administration insisted it was not trying to take power away from the states but, rather, trying to make sure that state actions follow the intent of the Clean Water Act.
Trade groups representing the oil and gas industry applauded the orders and said greater access to natural gas benefits families and the environment. President and CEO at the American Gas Association Karen Harbert said, “When states say ‘no’ to the development of natural gas pipelines, they force utilities to curb safe and affordable service and refuse access to new customers including new businesses.”