President Signs Orders Reviving Keystone, Dakota Pipelines

(CN) – President Donald Trump signed executive orders advancing construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines Tuesday, projects the Obama administration had blocked due to environmental and other concerns.

The president also signed a related order requiring the materials for the pipelines to be made in the United States, and another that will expedite environmental reviews of all infrastructure projects.

“I’m very insistent that if we’re going to build pipelines in the United States, the pipe should be made in the United States,” Trump said during a photo op in the Oval Office.

Of the expedited environmental review process, Trump said “the regulatory process in this country has become a tangled mess.”

He later described the existing process as long, horrible, and cumbersome.

As pool photographers snapped away, Trump also revealed he plans to nominate a justice for the Supreme Court next week to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last year. Earlier on Tuesday, the president summoned Senate leaders to the White House for a discussion of the nomination.

Former President Barack Obama blocked the proposed Keystone XL pipeline in 2015, explaining that it ran counter to administration policies on the environment and promoting alternatives to fossil fuels. He also said to move forward with the plan would undercut the multinational climate change agreement signed in Paris that year.

The pipeline, which was proposed by Calgary-based TransCanada, requires government approval because it will run from from Canada and cross into the United States in Nebraska before connecting to existing pipelines that serve refineries on the Gulf Coast.

The 1,172-mile Dakota Access pipeline has been a flashpoint because the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its supporters say the final 1,100 feet of the project threatens drinking water and Native American sites. Late last year, the Army Corps of Engineers declined to allow construction of the Dakota Access pipeline under Lake Oahe, saying alternative routes needed to be considered.

The company behind the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, plans to move oil from North Dakota, into South Dakota and Iowa, before sending it south to a distribution site in Illinois.

But even as he effectively revived both projects, Trump said each would now be the subject of renegotiation, although he said nothing about what that meant.

Opponents of both projects condemned Trump’s executive orders Tuesday afternoon. Among them was Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who said in a statement that the president had “put the short-term profits of the fossil fuel industry ahead of the future of our planet.”

“At a time when the scientific community is virtually unanimous in telling us that climate change is real, it is caused by human activity and it is already causing devastating problems, we cannot afford to build new oil pipelines that lock us into burning fossil fuels for years to come. I will do everything I can to stop these pipelines and protect our planet for future generations,” Sanders said.

Greenpeace also released a statement in which its executive director, Annie Leonard, said indigenous communities, ranchers, farmers, and climate activists would not give up their fight against the projects.

“We all saw the incredible strength and courage of the water protectors at Standing Rock, and the people around the world who stood with them in solidarity,” Leonard said. “We’ll stand with them again if Trump tries to bring the Dakota Access Pipeline, or any other fossil fuel infrastructure project, back to life.”

The Standing Rock Sioux have already said they plan to go to court to try and overturn Trump’s orders.

Earlier on Tuesday, Trump met with the heads of General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler, in which he repeated promises to dramatically scale back regulations and reduce taxes on corporations that keep jobs in the United States.

Trump told the auto executives that his administration is making a “very big push … to have auto plants and other plants, many other plants” stay in the United States.

“You not being singled out, believe me,” Trump told Mary Barra, chairperson and CEO of the General Motors Company.

The president has criticized GM for its decision to build a model of its Chevy Cruze in Mexico.

On Tuesday, he said in light of his harsh statements about General Motors, mostly rendered via Twitter, a number of U.S. companies have rethought such moves.

“We had Whirlpool up yesterday … and they’re talking about building new facilities here,” Trump said. “But it’s not the construction jobs I want, although that brings jobs … it’s the long term jobs that we’re looking for … We’re bringing manufacturing back to the United States big league.

“We’re reducing taxes very substantially and we’re reducing unnecessary regulations. And we want regulations but we want real regulation that mean something,” he said.

On Monday he told a breakfast meeting of corporate titans that he planned to scrap 75 percent or more of existing regulations on business and make dramatic tax cuts, while also imposing a border tax to punish U.S. companies who opt to make products in Mexico and elsewhere rather than employ American workers.

Trump said his goal is to make the United States “extremely hospitable” to business.

“Right now it’s not,” he said. “I have friends that want to build in the United States, [but] they go many, many years and then they can’t get their environmental permit over something that nobody ever heard of before. And it’s absolutely crazy.

“I am, to a large extent, an environmentalist, I believe in it,” Trump said. “But [the regulatory approval process] is out of control and we’re going to make it a very short process. We’re going to either give you your permits or we’re not going to give you your permits. But you’re going to know very quickly. And generally speaking we’re going to be giving you your permits.”

 

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