President Trump Signs Executive Orders to Speed Gas and Oil Pipeline Construction

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In yet another gift to one of his favorite industries, President Trump signed two new executive orders yesterday aimed at accelerating the construction of oil and natural gas pipelines across the country.

While the Trump Administration insists the orders are necessary to boost vital energy infrastructure, critics quickly denounced the action as a dangerous attack on states’ rights and the environment.

Order Would Prevent Individual States from Blocking New Pipelines

The first order grants the president sole authority for approving or denying pipelines and other energy infrastructure projects that cross international boundaries. This would allow energy companies to avoid a lengthy State Department review and expedite projects like the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which is intended to transport crude oil from Canada to refineries in Louisiana and Texas.

The second requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to rethink a section of the Clean Water Act that enables individual states to block the construction of new pipelines and other projects that might endanger water quality.

“This is another gift to polluters at the expense of our health and welfare,” said Jon Devine, director for federal water policy at the Natural Resources Defense Council.  “Developers of pipelines or dams don’t want state leaders or local residents to scrutinize or restrict harmful projects—but that just demonstrates why states’ authority to do so is so important.”

The same order calls on the Transportation Department to alter its regulations to allow the shipment of liquefied natural gas by rail and tanker truck when pipelines aren’t an option. It also seeks to limit shareholder ballot initiatives aimed at influencing companies’ environmental and social stances,  and directs the Labor Department to determine if retirement funds are meeting their fiduciary responsibilities when they pursue such strategies.

Trump’s Pipeline Orders Will Likely Face Court Challenge

President Trump signed the executive orders during an event in Crosby, Texas, where residents continue to cope with the fallout from last week’s deadly KMCO chemical plant explosion and other recent petrochemical fires. Needless to say, the optics were not lost on his critics.

“Smoke from the fires has barely cleared, but President Donald Trump shows no shame in using Texas’ petrochemical corridor as a prop for his misguided and dangerous proposals,” said Stephanie Thomas, an organizer with Public Citizen, in a press release.

Several states and environmental groups have already questioned the legality of Trump’s new executive orders and and indicated they would challenge the directives in court.

“This isn’t the first time President Trump has tried to use executive power to advance dirty energy interests,” said Jill Tauber, Earthjustice’s Vice President of Litigation for Climate and Energy. “Just last month, a federal judge declared his order to open up the Arctic and Atlantic oceans to offshore oil and gas drilling unlawful, following an Earthjustice lawsuit. We will continue to stand up for the rule of law and the power of communities to protect their environment.”

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