Trump Signs Orders Limiting State Powers Over Pipelines

President Donald Trump waves as he arrives at Ellington Joint Reserve Base in Houston on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed a pair of executive orders aimed at speeding up work on energy infrastructure projects, including oil and natural gas pipelines, by limiting the ability of states to block those projects.  

“My action today will cut through destructive permitting delays and denials,” Trump said in remarks at the International Union of Operating Engineers International Training and Education Center in Crosby, Texas. “You know about that, you know about delays, where it takes you 20 years to get a permit? Those days are gone.”

One of the orders Trump signed Wednesday afternoon calls for a review of federal guidance on section 401 of the Clean Water Act, which requires companies to get approval from states before starting work on an energy project. As it stands now, states can use this authority to block federal projects if they do not meet state water quality standards.

In his speech Wednesday, Trump faulted New York for blocking construction of a natural gas pipeline in 2016 under this provision.

“We need help with New York, New York is hurting the country because they’re not allowing us to get those pipelines through,” the president said.   

Trump said the permitting process will take no more than 60 days to complete under his new order.

A senior administration official who laid out the executive orders in a briefing Tuesday said changes to the guidance would come after consultation with states, tribes and other federal agencies and would give “clarification and certainty” on the process of state certifications.

The other order Trump signed clarifies that the president alone has the authority over deciding whether to issue or deny cross-border permits, a job that currently involves the secretary of state. Trump issued a new permit for the Keystone XL pipeline last week, after a court order blocked an earlier permit issued by the State Department.

The administration official said the combination of the orders will help speed up production of energy projects, with the goal of bringing down costs and creating jobs.

“The main thing we want to be doing here is to kind of reset and take a look at how the federal government impacts these investments and build out an energy infrastructure and make sure that we provide a good, consistent, viable path forward, in terms of a relationship between the private sector and the federal government going forward,” the official said.

But environmental groups have sounded alarms about the orders, particularly the effort to rework guidance on state energy project certifications.  In a statement Wednesday, the National Wildlife Federation said the proposal would hurt states’ ability to protect their own environments.

“The Trump administration’s proposal would trample on state authority to protect waters within their own borders,” Jim Murphy, senior counsel for the National Wildlife Federation, said in a statement. “The environmental consequences could be disastrous, putting at risk a state’s ability to protect the lakes, rivers, streams and other waters that support its drinking water supply, outdoor economy, and wildlife from pollution and degradation. This action would be a direct attack on clean water.”

%d bloggers like this: