President Trump resurrected the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines Tuesday, thrilling labor unions and advocates for domestic energy but outraging environmentalists and American Indians whose fierce protests persuaded the Obama administration to kill both projects.
For Mr. Trump, reopening negotiations to build the cross-country pipelines was all about the jobs agenda that has dominated his first days in office.
“We’ll see if we can get that pipeline built. A lot of jobs, 28,000 jobs — great construction jobs,” Mr. Trump said when signing the presidential memorandum that revived the proposed Keystone XL project. When completed, the Canada-to-Texas pipeline would carry more than 700,000 barrels of Canadian oil each day to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Bundled with the pipeline moves, Mr. Trump took action to streamline what he called the “incredibly cumbersome” federal permitting process and to expedite environmental reviews for infrastructure projects such as building bridges and roads.
He also signed an order promoting the use of American-made steel for oil pipelines.
“It’s going to put a lot of workers, a lot of steelworkers, back to work,” said the president. “We will build our own pipeline. We will build our own pipes. … Like we used to in the old days.”
Keeping a tight focus on jobs, Mr. Trump also huddled with chief executives from the Big Three automakers. It was the latest in a series of White House meetings with business and labor union leaders to suss out his economic plan.
“We’re bringing manufacturing back to the United States big-league. We’re reducing taxes very substantially, and we’re reducing unnecessary regulations,” Mr. Trump told executives from General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. “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.”
The revival of the pipeline projects was expected. Mr. Trump campaigned on it and vowed to prioritize energy production over any concerns about climate change.
He nevertheless plunged himself into a conflict that roiled President Obama, who was torn between his union supporters and his environmental allies.
The Obama administration dragged out the permitting process for Keystone XL for years before killing the project in 2015.
Mr. Obama justified his decision by arguing that the U.S. could no longer promote the use of fossil fuels, even though his own State Department’s research had found Keystone would not significantly increase North American greenhouse gas emissions.
The Dakota Access project, which would build a pipeline through North Dakota’s Standing Rock Indian Reservation to Illinois, joined environmentalists and American Indians in monthslong protests against the government that sometimes turned violent.
The opposition prompted the Obama administration to pulled the plug on the project last month.
The anti-pipeline drumbeat quickly resumed after Mr. Trump’s action Tuesday.
“Trump’s decision to give the go-ahead for the Dakota Access Pipeline is a slap in the face to Native Americans and a blatant disregard for the rights to their land,” said Jamil Dakwar, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Human Rights Program, who was at Standing Rock.
“By law, they are entitled to water rights and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, not sacrificed for political expediency and profit-making,” he said. “The Trump administration should allow careful environmental impact analysis to be completed with full and meaningful participation of affected tribes.”
Others on the left accused Mr. Trump of fueling climate change and worry that his moves, coupled with promises to roll back Environmental Protection Agency programs limiting emissions from power plants, will reverse all of the climate progress achieved under Mr. Obama.
“Millions of people came together all over this country to stop the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines and say we must transform our energy system away from fossil fuels to renewable energy,” said Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, who emerged from his Democratic presidential primary run as a leader of the far left.
“President Trump ignored the voices of millions and put the short-term profits of the fossil fuel industry ahead of the future of our planet,” he said.
Anna Galland, executive director of the liberal activist group MoveOn.org, said the executive orders were “dangerous, reckless and heartless.”
“Less than four days into Trump’s presidency, it is clear that the next four years will be about catering to corporate interests and big donors instead of putting American families and communities first,” she said.”Overruling the scientists and experts who have previously warned about the dangers of these pipelines puts big oil profits above all else.”
Reopening negotiations on the pipelines, however, helped solidify Mr. Trump’s support among labor union leaders who traditionally back Democrats. Union leadership overwhelmingly supported Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, despite widespread support among rank-and-file members for Mr. Trump.
Laborers’ International Union of North America, an outspoken proponent of the pipeline projects, issued a statement with the headline: “It Is Finally Beginning to Feel Like a New Day for America’s Working Class.”
“For thousands of hard-working men and women who have been shut out of our economy for too long, it is beginning to feel like a new day,” said union General President Terry O’Sullivan. “We applaud President Trump for turning the page for them, leaving the politicization of decisions over energy projects in the dustbin of the past.”
Business groups also backed the move.
Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, said Mr. Trump had wasted no time in boosting the manufacturing economy.
“This is a signal that this administration is committed to creating the right environment to move forward on important energy infrastructure projects,” he said. “President Trump has kept his promise with today’s decisions, and they are another clear sign that Washington is open for business.”
Mr. Trump’s move also was applauded by lawmakers from energy-producing states.
“What this country needs is more jobs, and that is why I have always been a proponent of the Keystone XL pipeline,” said Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat. “I’m glad we are finally moving forward with this important project.”