Trump signs executive orders facilitating oil and gas pipeline construction

April 14, 2019

President Donald Trump is at it again, ruffling those liberal feathers.

In a move that the left is calling an overreach of power that will harm the environment, the president signed two executive orders last week that will facilitate the building of new oil and gas pipelines.

“Nobody in the world can do what you folks do,” the president told an audience of engineers in Crosby, Texas on Wednesday. “And we’re going to make it easier for you.”

Making things easier

Trump’s plan to “make it easier” involves eliminating obstacles regularly confronted by the oil and gas industries. And part of that plan involves getting the state out of the way.

As things currently stand, states have a direct role in the issuance of federal permits for energy infrastructure projects that have the potential to pollute protected waters. This process is described in one of the executive orders as “outdated” and the cause of “confusion and uncertainty” — and Trump wants the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to fix it.

In his first order on Wednesday, Trump instructed the agency to engage directly with tribal organizations and states before any regulations designed to achieve compliance with the Clean Air Act are enacted.

But the order doesn’t stop there. It also addresses the need for long-distance transportation of liquefied natural gas in circumstances where pipelines are not an option. Accordingly, it would allow the product to travel by approved railroad tank cars.

The second order is aimed at international actors. In line with the traditional role of the executive, it gives the president the sole authority to “issue, deny, or amend” permits for international infrastructure projects.

Previously, the State Department was in charge of overseeing this function.

Unleashing American energy

These executive orders are part of the president’s broader initiative to develop energy infrastructure and “unleash American energy.” The ultimate goal of the project is to promote “an efficient domestic energy market that creates jobs and provides affordable, reliable energy to consumers.”

“When it comes to the future of America’s energy needs, we will find it, we will dream it, and we will build it,” Trump said.

Don Santa, CEO of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America expressed support for the president’s decision and praised the elimination of “procedural inefficiencies” that can cause delays in already lengthy processes that are so crucial to the continued growth of the industry. But that’s not how leftists see it.

Democrats like New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo are calling the orders are an “overreach” of Trump’s authority that undermines conservation efforts. In a statement, Cuomo said that the order seeking to eliminate state involvement in the permit process is a “gross overreach of federal authority” that inhibits the state’s ability to “protect our water quality and our environment.”

Democrat Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington agreed, saying in a statement that the orders constitute “an unprecedented assault on the right and obligation of every state to protect their waters and communities.”

Those in favor of the orders, however, argue that the critics have things backward; it is the restraints the president is trying to eliminate that make it more difficult for companies to provide a safe and affordable service that provides many much-needed jobs.

There is no doubt that opponents will try to fight the two executive orders in the courts. But will they succeed? Only time will tell.

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Robert Ayers

Robert Ayers is a staff writer for Conservative Institute. He has a bachelor’s degree from Quinnipiac University and a J.D. from the University of Connecticut.