President Trump signed two executive orders Wednesday aimed at making it easier for the oil and gas industry to build pipelines and other infrastructure, he said, “to continue the revival of the American energy industry.”
“I want to keep it going,” Mr. Trump said of the strong U.S. economy. “We’ve ended the war on energy like never before. We’re going to get these approvals done quickly.”
In front of a boisterous union crowd, the president thanked local and state officials including Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, saying “this is the only Bush that likes me.”
“Truly, this is the Bush that got it right,” the president joked. “He’s going places.”
The president’s action also will change U.S. policy to give the president, rather than the secretary of state, sole authority for approving cross-border pipelines such as the Keystone XL pipeline project, which was delayed for nearly a decade before President Obama personally rejected it in 2015.
On a fundraising trip to Texas, Mr. Trump visited the International Union of Operating Engineers’ International Training and Education Center in Crosby to promote private investment in energy infrastructure and streamlining permitting of projects.
The president’s orders take aim at states which invoke the federal Clean Water Act to delay pipeline and other energy infrastructure projects unnecessarily, administration officials said.
Mr. Trump said he wants to stop “state-level abuse” of environmental laws that is used to block pipeline projects.
“We actually buy a lot of oil from other countries like Russia” due to obstruction by environmentalists, the president said.
The orders will direct the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure that provisions of the Clean Water Act are implemented “consistent with statutory intent,” a senior administration official said.
The action is aimed partly at states such as New York, which in April 2018 denied water quality certification for the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project, a natural gas pipeline.
Environmental groups slammed the president’s move.
“The Trump administration’s proposal would trample on state authority to protect waters within their own borders,” said Jim Murphy, senior counsel for the National Wildlife Federation. “The environmental consequences could be disastrous, putting at risk a state’s ability to protect the lakes, rivers, streams, and other waters that support its drinking water supply, outdoor economy, and wildlife from pollution and degradation. This action would be a direct attack on clean water.”
The president insisted “we’re strongly protecting the environment.”
“People don’t understand that about us,” Mr. Trump said.
The president’s action also rescinds executive orders in 1968 and 2004 that gave the Secretary of State the authority to issue presidential permits for pipeline projects crossing international borders. In March 2017, Mr. Trump issued a permit for the Keystone pipeline, which is to carry shale oil from Canada to refineries in the U.S.
The president’s orders direct the Transportation Department to update safety regulations to “reflect modern technology” to allow for the transport of LNG in approved rail tank cars. LNG is an extremely flammable, hazardous material that has never been transported by railroad in the continental U.S., but administration officials say safety standards and technology have improved greatly since LNG was banned for rail shipment decades ago.
The Republican National Committee said Mr. Trump’s trip also raised at least $6 million for the president’s reelection campaign and the RNC.