President Trump signed memos today aimed at restarting the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines, keeping a campaign promise and throwing down the gauntlet to environmentalists opposed to the projects.
Trump’s executive action invites TransCanada Corp. to resubmit an application for its Keystone XL project and directs the State Department to fast-track its review of the pipeline that would link Canada’s oil sands region with U.S. refineries.
"This is with regard to the construction of the Keystone pipeline, something that’s been in dispute, and it’s subject to a renegotiation of terms by us," Trump said as he signed the order. "We’re going to renegotiate some of the terms, and if we like, we’ll see if we can get that pipeline built. A lot of jobs, 28,000 jobs, great construction jobs."
TransCanada has made clear its intention to revive KXL that was rejected by President Obama. The pipeline would stretch from Alberta, Canada, to refineries in Illinois and Texas and a distribution center in Oklahoma.
While not explaining what "renegotiation of terms" means, Trump said last year the U.S. should receive a portion of any profits TransCanada makes from the pipeline in exchange for utilizing eminent domain that the company needs to ensure the project’s completion.
"Let’s take a piece of the action for you folks — lower your taxes a little bit more," he said in a speech unveiling his energy platform last May (E&E News PM, Sept. 26, 2016).
Upon signing the memo, Trump added, "again, subject to terms and conditions to be negotiated by us."
Trump then signed a second order directing all federal agencies, notably the Army Corps of Engineers, to expedite the review and approval of an outstanding easement needed by developers of the Dakota Access pipeline. Energy Transfer Partners LP’s $3.78 billion project stalled after failing to secure a critical approval from the corps for construction to advance near a Lake Oahe in North Dakota.
The 1,172-mile oil pipeline sparked nationwide protests after the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe voiced concerns about the potential for spills and leaks.
Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), an early backer of the project and an energy adviser to Trump’s campaign, released the language of the orders.
The president also signed actions requiring companies building pipelines in the United States to use domestic material, streamlining what he called the "cumbersome, long, horrible permitting process" for domestic manufacturing, and a fifth order fast-tracking environmental reviews and approvals of high-priority infrastructure projects.
"This is construction of pipelines in this country, we are and I am very insistent that if we’re going to build pipelines in the Unites States, the pipes should be made in the United States," Trump said upon signing the third executive order. "So unless there’s difficulty with that because companies are going to have to sort of gear up, much pipeline is bought from other countries.
"From now on, we’re going to start making pipeline in the United States," he continued. "We build it in the United States, we build the pipelines, we want to build the pipe. Going to put a lot of workers, a lot of steelworkers back to work."
Trump’s move was hailed by the business community and Republicans, but criticized by Democrats, environmental groups and tribes who vowed to fight the pipelines both on the ground and in the courtroom.
Today’s executive action followed the president’s meeting yesterday with unions eager to see the pipelines proceed.
According to the White House, Trump met with Sean McGarvey, president of North America’s Building and Construction Trades Department; Terry O’Sullivan, president of Laborers’ International Union of North America; Mark Coles of Ironworkers Local 5; and two members of the Sheet Metal Workers’ union.
Republicans angered over Obama’s rejection of the Keystone pipeline and decision to intervene in the Dakota Access project see the orders as a harbinger of new jobs.
"For years the previous Administration inexplicably robbed this country of tens of thousands of new jobs and a chance to become less dependent on unstable sources of energy," Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said in a statement. "An ‘all of the above’ energy strategy includes moving these projects forward, and this decision is long overdue."
Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) told reporters during an interview on Capitol Hill that it appears the executive order provides an expedited review process for the Dakota Access pipeline, but stopped short of clarifying whether there was a role for Congress. "We’ll see if there’s a role for the Senate, but right now, it looks like it’s going to be an administration-driven process," he said.
Democrats and groups like the Sierra Club shot back with warnings of a growing resistance and saying the oil production and transportation would only worsen the effects of climate change.
"He’s building a wall of resistance uniting Americans against his reckless agenda," tweeted Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.
Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii said the pipelines are "not in our national interest," and threaten to roll back the United States’ progress in clean energy.
"Encouraging the production of this oil, which includes Canadian tar sands — one of the dirtiest fuels in the world — is a huge step backward," Schatz said in a statement. "Climate change is the challenge of our generation, and we need to be moving forward with policies to support clean energy."
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) railed against the president and his nominees for putting "Big Oil" first, and said the Obama administration was right to reject the projects.
Other opponents vowed legal action.
Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman, who is representing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, told E&E News the tribe would immediately challenge an easement for the pipeline once formally issued by the Department of the Army.
"The previous administration correctly found that the process violated tribal treaties and that a further analysis of route alternatives needed to be conducted," he said. "This administration arbitrarily reversed that before they even have a new secretary of the Army in office. They’re breaking the law, and we’re going to take them to court."
Reporters George Cahlink and Ellen M. Gilmer contributed.