Article By: The Hill
President Trump will travel to Texas Wednesday to announce two new executive orders that aim to make it easier for the oil and gas industry to get permits for pipeline construction, among other infrastructure needs.
The executive orders, which will be announced at the International Union of Operating Engineers’ International Training and Education Center outside Houston, will each focus on incentivizing private investment in energy infrastructure and streamlining permitting of projects, according to a White House official.
“The two Executive Orders the President will sign will help American energy companies avoid unnecessary red tape, allowing the U.S. to continue to be the undisputed global leader in crude oil and natural gas production for the foreseeable future,” the official said in a statement.
The move follows on the heels of a presidential permit that Trump issued in late May to jump-start the delayed construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
The new permit would invalidate a previous March 2017 permit, which is currently being held up by courts, and instead replace it with a new permit for a pipeline with a facility in Montana. The pipeline would pass through longtime tribal lands in Montana and South Dakota.
A White House spokesperson told The Hill that the new permit “dispels any uncertainty.”
“Specifically, this permit reinforces, as should have been clear all along, that the Presidential Permit is indeed an exercise of Presidential authority — that is not subject to judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act,” the spokesperson added.
Trump’s new permit is already being challenged in court. An environmental group on Friday sued the administration, arguing Trump lacked the authority to issue the permit, because Congress — not the executive branch — has the sole power to administer federal lands.
The anticipated mid-week announcement is in line with Trump’s overall energy independent agenda and an administration-wide push to increase U.S. energy extraction.
The United States in 2018 became the leading producer for natural gas. Trump during his State of the Union address in February boasted of the achievement, saying “we have unleashed a revolution in American energy.”
In addition to the pipelines, Trump also favors an increase in onshore and offshore drilling.
The Interior Department, for example, is currently in the first stages of developing a plan to build more offshore drilling platforms in the Atlantic. The move is widely opposed by government officials representing coastal states.
At least one environmental organization is already calling out the timing of the announcement — and the location.
Wenonah Hauter, executive director at Food and Water Watch, took issue with Trump signing the executive orders in Crosby, Texas, the site of a deadly chemical plant explosion that happened last week. The explosion at the plant, which primarily manufactures antifreeze products, killed one person and injured at least two others.
“In coming to the location of a deadly fossil fuel-related explosion to sign an order that would gut states’ power to protect residents from the hazards of oil and gas pipelines, Trump is adding tasteless insult to the injury he is inflicting on our planet,” Hauter said in a statement.
“Trump’s support for the fossil fuel industry reflects a real disdain for public safety and a livable climate for generations to come. Expediting pipelines means more petrochemical buildout in places like Appalachia, and more disasters waiting in the wings — not to mention climate catastrophe.”