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NY Times, Jan. 24 2017
Trump Revives Keystone Pipeline Rejected by Obama
By PETER BAKER and CORAL DAVENPORT
WASHINGTON — President Trump moved assertively on Tuesday to resurrect a
pipeline in the Dakotas that had become a major flashpoint for Native
Americans, while reviving the Keystone XL pipeline, which had stirred
years of debate over the balance between energy needs and environmental
The actions were the latest to dismantle Obama era policies. The former
president rejected the proposed 1,179-mile Keystone pipeline in 2015,
arguing that it would undercut American leadership in curbing reliance
on carbon energy to address a warming climate.
Mr. Trump signed a document clearing the way for the government to
reconsider the pipeline as well as another expediting the Dakota Access
pipeline from North and South Dakota to Illinois.
The decisions came a day after Mr. Trump formally abandoned the
Trans-Pacific Partnership, an ambitious, 12-nation trade pact negotiated
by Mr. Obama. In his opening days in office, Mr. Trump has also signed
an order that begins to unravel Mr. Obama’s health care program,
reversed the former president’s policies on abortion and housing, and
ordered a freeze of any pending regulations left behind by the departing
As proposed by TransCanada, a Canadian firm, the Keystone pipeline would
carry 800,000 barrels a day from the Canadian oil sands to the Gulf
Coast. Republicans and some Democrats argued that the project would
create jobs and expand energy resources, while environmentalists said it
would encourage a form of oil extraction that produces more gases that
warm the planet than normal petroleum.
Studies showed that the pipeline would not have a momentous impact on
jobs or the environment, but both sides made it into a symbolic test
case of American willingness to promote energy production or curb its
appetites to heal the planet. Torn by competing policy imperatives and
conflicting politics, Mr. Obama delayed a decision for years before
finally rejecting the pipeline shortly before an international
conference in Paris to forge a global climate change agreement.
“Keystone has never been a significant issue from an environmental point
of view in substance, only in symbol,” said David Goldwyn, an energy
market analyst and a former head of the State Department’s energy bureau
in the Obama administration. Regarding the pipeline’s effect on the
nation’s broader energy market, Mr. Goldwyn said: “One additional
pipeline? It’s useful. It’s not indispensable.”
But it was a symbol Mr. Trump found important enough to seize on early
in his presidency. He signed an executive memorandum inviting
TransCanada “to promptly resubmit its application to the Department of
State for a presidential permit” for the pipeline, although the document
did not guarantee approval.
Terry Cunha, a spokeswoman from TransCanada, said in an email on Monday
that the company remained “fully committed” to building the project,
although she declined to discuss the project’s next steps.
The Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota became the focus of protests
when the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe objected to its construction less
than a mile from its reservation. The tribe and its allies won victory
last month when the Army Corps of Engineers announced that it would look
for alternative routes for the $3.7 billion pipeline instead of allowing
it to be drilled under a dammed section of the Missouri River.
Mr. Trump signed an executive memorandum directing the Army “to review
and approve in an expedited manner” the pipeline, “to the extent
permitted by law and as warranted.” In his session with reporters, he
added, “Again, subject to terms and conditions to be negotiated by us.”
Mr. Trump owned stock in Energy Transfer Partners, the company that is
building the Dakota Access pipeline, according to his most recent filing
with the Federal Election Commission. Last month, a spokesman for Mr.
Trump said he sold all of his stock in June, but there is no way of
verifying that sale, and Mr. Trump has not provided documentation of it.
Critics denounced Mr. Trump’s decisions. “Donald Trump has been in
office for four days and he’s already proving to be the dangerous threat
to our climate we feared he would be,” said Michael Brune, executive
director of the Sierra Club.
Environmental activists vowed to keep fighting the projects. “This is
not a done deal,” Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, the group that led
the protests against the Keystone pipeline, said in a statement. “The
last time around, TransCanada was so confident they literally mowed the
strip where they planned to build the pipeline, before people power
stopped them. People will mobilize again.”
In Canada, the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed Mr.
Trump’s decision. “We have been supportive of this since the day we were
sworn into government,” Jim Carr, the natural resources minister, told
reporters in Calgary, Alberta, the center of nation’s oil industry,
where the cabinet was meeting. Mr. Carr said the American reversal will
lead “to a deepening of the relationship across the border.”
The green light for Keystone came after Mr. Trudeau’s approval of two
pipeline projects linked to Alberta’s oil sands in late November.
Expanded pipeline capacity and its potential to expand the market for
the oil sands, which overwhelmingly export to the United States, are
welcome developments in Alberta and neighboring Saskatchewan, both
oil-producing provinces. But there is considerable opposition to
Keystone and oil sands pipelines in general in other parts of Canada and
within many indigenous communities.
In addition to the Keystone and Dakota directives, Mr. Trump signed
three others intended to ease the way for businesses and promote
American manufacturing. One instructed the Commerce Department to
develop a plan to ensure that all future pipelines built in the United
States be constructed out of American-made materials.
Another was aimed at streamlining what he called “the incredibly
cumbersome, long, horrible permitting process and reducing regulatory
burdens for domestic manufacturing.” The last directive was intended to
expedite environmental reviews for “high-priority infrastructure
projects” like highways and bridges.
Mr. Trump’s actions came on a day when he met with the leaders of the
country’s largest automakers, whom he has been pushing to produce more
of their products in the United States. He singled out General Motors in
a Twitter post this month for building the Chevy Cruze hatchback in
Mexico. “Make in U.S.A. or pay big border tax!” he wrote.
Hosting the automakers on Tuesday, he made a point of holding out a
chair for Mary T. Barra, G.M.’s chief executive. “You’re not being
singled out, believe me, Mary, I promise,” he told her as journalists
recorded the moment. “But you have a lot of plants from a lot of
different items built in the United States. And it’s happening, it’s
happening big league.”
Mr. Trump said he understood that manufacturers faced regulatory burdens
in the United States and he would make it easier for them to make their
products in the country. “We’re going to make the process much more
simple for the auto companies and for everybody else who wants to do
business in the United States,” he said. “You’re going to find this to
be from being very inhospitable to extremely hospitable.”
Anticipating criticism from advocates of tackling climate change, he
added: “I am, to a large extent, an environmentalist, I believe in it.
But it’s out of control and we’re going to make it a very short process.
And 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.”
The auto executives offered praise for Mr. Trump after the session.
“We’re very encouraged by the president and the economic policies that
he’s forwarding,” Mark Fields, the chief executive of the Ford Motor
Company, told reporters outside the White House as they left.
He cited the withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. “We
appreciate the president’s courage to walk away from a bad trade deal,”
Ian Austen contributed from Ottawa.
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