In Texas, the country’s largest energy producer, President Donald Trump signed on April 10 two executive orders that will fast-track new oil and gas pipelines.
The executive orders will break down regulatory barriers to financing and operating energy infrastructure projects that lie within or are partially outside of America’s borders. They will also require the U.S. Department of Energy to work in consultation with other government agencies to prepare reports for the president that will examine the economic impact of state and local constraints on the ability to transport coal, oil, and natural gas across the nation.
Under the Clean Water Act, companies must seek the approval of state governments before beginning an infrastructure project, such as pipelines and coal terminals. The orders also instruct the Environment Protection Agency to review and update the Clean Water Act, in order to streamline energy development.
Fulfilling his campaign promises, Trump has issued past executive orders to advance American energy dominance. Just days into his presidency, Trump issued an executive order emphasizing the administration’s support for the construction of the Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines. The completion of both projects had been stalled for years due to litigation, high-profile protests, and government red tape—all of which had been put into place despite evidence that transporting oil by pipeline is safer than by rail or truck.
In March 2019, Trump issued a permit for TransCanada to begin the construction and operation of the Keystone XL pipeline in the United States, sidestepping a federal court ruling that prevents the U.S. State Department from greenlighting the project. The Dakota Access pipeline is in full operation.
The president’s executive decision comes after several incidents in which states blocked the development or transportation of fossil fuels. For example, in March, Washington State senators passed a bill that would prohibit the loading and unloading of Bakken crude oil with a vapor pressure more than 9 per square inch (psi), effectively bringing railroad shipments of oil into the state to a screeching halt. (The current state standard for vapor pressure is 13.7 psi.) In 2017, the same state denied Millennium Bulk Terminals’ request to build and operate a coal terminal that would have exported coal from the western United States to Asia.
Heartland Institute President Tim Huelskamp praised the executive orders in a new press release, stating, “For years, far-left politicians have abused their authority and deprived America of much-needed energy infrastructure. 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.”
The United States has been the world’s top producer of natural gas since 2009 and the world’s top producer of oil since 2013, curbing our reliance on fossil-fuel imports from countries like Russia and Saudi Arabia. Even better, America is on track to be a net exporter of energy in 2020. Additional energy production, not less, would provide a necessary boost to the nation’s energy independence, national security, and economy.
Heartland has recently published Climate Change Reconsidered II: Fossil Fuels, which provides a scientific and economic analysis of the costs and benefits of fossil fuels. These fuels have allowed the development of revolutionary technologies, lifted billions of people from abject poverty, and powered our comfortable, modern lifestyles. The world has adopted natural gas, oil, and coal because they are cheap, abundant, and reliable—the antithesis of renewable sources.
What We’re Working On
Energy & Environment
Washington State’s Newly Proposed Oil Vapor Pressure Limits Threaten Interstate Trade and Energy Security
In this Research & Commentary, Government Relations Director George Jamerson writes about a Washington State bill that would offer new vapor pressure limits on Bakken Shale crude oil transported through the state. These proposed limits, he argues, are based on false information and junk science that suggest Bakken crude is inherently more dangerous than other kinds of crude. If passed, Jamerson writes, this regulation would bring Bakken crude rail shipments to a halt, negatively impacting not only Washington’s economy, but also the economies of North Dakota, Montana, and other states.
Low-Income Tennessee Children Deserve Education Savings Accounts
In this Research & Commentary, Policy Analyst Tim Benson writes about a proposal in Tennessee to establish an education savings account (ESA) program for low-income students zoned to school districts with at least three schools in the lowest-performing 10 percent of the state’s public schools. The program would begin no later than the 2021–22 school year, with an enrollment cap of 5,000 students, and each ESA would be worth $7,300. This cap would increase annually by 2,500 students until the cap of 15,000 students is reached. The total budget for the program would be $125 million.
Florida Should Repeal Its Certificate of Need Laws
In this Research & Commentary, Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans examines two new bills in Florida that would roll back the state’s certificate of need laws for some or all of the state’s health care providers. “Rolling back Florida’s CON laws would be a strong step in the right direction. Ideally, Sunshine State lawmakers should repeal all CON laws,” wrote Glans.
Budget & Tax
Capital Gains Taxes Are Still Unconstitutional in Washington State
In this Research & Commentary, Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans examines the latest effort by Washington lawmakers to create a new tax on capital gains, a provision that would likely violate the state’s constitution. “Capital gains levies tax individuals and corporations on their profits that are realized when investors sell a capital asset for a net gain. Currently, 43 states tax capital gains. Because taxes on capital gains are paid by investors and businesses, they slow capital formation and reduce wages for workers,” wrote Glans.
From Our Free-Market Friends
Changing the Course
A new study from the James Madison Institute (JMI) reviews the practice in Florida of suspending people’s driver’s licenses as a punishment for crimes unrelated to traffic safety. In 2018, Florida issued about 1.7 million license suspensions, and it is estimated that 76 percent of those suspension were for committing non-traffic-related offenses. Researchers at JMI make the case that license suspensions are an unfair method of punishment for these offenders because suspension hinders people’s ability to get to work, run errands, and maintain a decent livelihood.
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