Trump Acts to Speed Oil and Gas Infrastructure Construction

Published April 29, 2019

President Donald Trump signed two executive orders to speed approval of multistate pipelines, liquefied natural gas terminals, and cross-border infrastructure projects, to remove key obstacles to interstate commerce.

Trump says the executive orders are in response to actions by various state governments to prevent or slow the construction of new oil and gas pipelines and other energy infrastructure the president says is critical to U.S. economic performance and his stated goal of American energy dominance.

Orders Prompt Decisions

One order Trump issued directs the federal government to make all permitting decisions concerning pipelines or other energy infrastructure projects that cross international borders within 60 days, and it gives the president the exclusive responsibility to “issue, deny, or amend” such permits.

“The president—not the bureaucracy—will have sole authority to make the final decision when we get caught up in problems,” Trump said.

Trump’s second energy executive order directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review and modify what the order refers to as an “outdated” section of the Clean Water Act that requires applicants requesting federal permits for energy infrastructure projects that might affect federally protected waters to get certification from states where any potential contamination could happen. Under the order, EPA is expected to limit both the amount of time states have to consider pipeline and infrastructure permits and the reasons states can give for blocking permits.

The second order also directs the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to update its safety regulations for facilities that store liquefied natural gas (LNG). If pipelines aren’t available to deliver LNG, DOT must allow it to be carried over long distances to those facilities in approved railroad tank cars.

Ending ‘War on American Energy”

Trump says in many cases corporate interests and environmental activists have been allowed to block critical energy infrastructure, hurting average Americans and the nation’s economy.

“Under this administration, we have ended the war on American energy like never before,” said Trump at the International Union of Operating Engineers International Training and Education Center in Crosby, Texas on April 10. “Since the election, we have created more than 5.5 million new jobs and more than 60,000 brand-new oil and gas pipeline construction jobs.

“But too often, badly needed energy infrastructure is being held back by special interest groups, entrenched bureaucracies, and radical activists,” Trump said. “This obstruction does not just hurt families and workers like you; it undermines our independence and national security.”

These two executive orders promote the national interest by speeding up the approval process for energy infrastructure, says Trump.

“The two executive orders that I’ll be signing in just a moment will fix this, dramatically accelerating energy infrastructure approvals,” said Trump. “My first order will speed up the process for approving vital infrastructure on our nation’s borders, such as oil pipelines, roads, and railways. It will now take no more than 60 days, … [a]nd the president, not the bureaucracy, will have sole authority to make the final decision when we get caught up in problems.

“My second order will modernize regulations for LNG export terminals and encourage new infrastructure financing,” Trump said. “And finally, it will stop state-level abuse of water quality certifications—they abuse you; when you’re nowhere near water, they abuse you—from blocking the construction of vital pipeline projects as we rebuild our energy infrastructure.”

‘Just What Is Needed’

Trump’s energy executive orders promote the United States’ national and economic security, says Tim Huelskamp, Ph.D., president of The Heartland Institute, which publishes Environment & Climate News.

“For years, far-left politicians have abused their authority and deprived America of much-needed energy infrastructure,” said Huelskamp in a press release. “This executive order by President Donald Trump is just what is needed to create thousands more high-paying jobs in the energy industry, protect U.S. national security, and enhance the reliability and affordability of America’s energy supply.”

Trump’s executive order will spur efficiencies and reduce the costs of energy development, says Katie Tubb, a senior policy analyst with The Heritage Foundation.

“These orders wisely call for good governance measures for clarity and consistency across agencies in key permitting and regulatory activities,” said Tubb. “Improving efficiencies will make project delivery less expensive, spur job creation, and help get America’s abundance of energy resources from where it’s extracted to where it’s needed.”

Ending Obstructionism

Environmentalists don’t care who their anti-fossil-fuel policies hurt, says Anthony Watts, a senior fellow with The Heartland Institute.

“Environmentalists do everything they can prevent the shipment of oil and natural gas, from blocking pipelines to preventing their shipment by rail or trucks,” said Watts. “In short, radical environmentalists don’t seem to care if people freeze to death in the winter for lack of heating oil or because electricity is not affordable. What President Trump is doing is saying ‘enough!'”

For too long, environmentalists have used state agencies to block vital energy development, says Nick Loris, deputy director of the Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.

“Energy infrastructure has been a key target for the “Keep It in the Ground” movement, with obstructionists hampering job creation and denying American families and businesses access to affordable, reliable energy,” said Loris. “States should not have unchecked authority to abuse federal statutes, where states deny projects for whatever reason they desire.

“President Trump’s energy infrastructure executive orders are exactly the type of leadership the federal government should provide to promote energy and infrastructure investment in the United States,” Loris said.

Call to Action

Rob Bradley Jr., CEO of the Institute for Energy Research, says the energy industry should act quickly to take advantage of Trump’s actions.

“The ‘keep-it-in-the-ground movement’ has declared war on oil and gas pipelines with the avowed purpose of creating bottlenecks,” Bradley said. “In the face of such obstructionism, Trump is fighting fire with fire with his executive order.

“The oil and gas industry would be well-served to accelerate their pipeline projects in the face of future obstructionism,” said Bradley.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute.