Trump moves to make it harder to block pipelines such as Keystone XL

Trump moves to make it harder to block pipelines such as Keystone XL
World-Herald News Service

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is announcing an executive order Wednesday that could make it harder for states to scuttle pipelines and other energy projects based on concerns about their harm to water quality.

Trump has made it a priority to expand energy development, in part by rolling back government regulations.

Wednesday’s move follows his decision last month to issue a new permit for the long-stalled Keystone XL oil pipeline — two years after he first approved it and more than a decade after it was first proposed. While the southern portion of the project was completed years ago, construction of the portion from Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska, has been delayed.

Republican lawmakers have complained about states using the permitting process to stop energy projects in states including New York and Washington. A senior administration official said some states are wrongly interpreting Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. Under that section, companies must obtain certification from the state before moving ahead with an energy project.

Washington state blocked the building of a coal terminal. New York regulators stopped a natural gas pipeline when they determined it failed to meet standards to protect water resources.

TransCanada was able to win approval from the Nebraska Public Service Commission for a route across the state, but the approval has been held up by both state and federal lawsuits.

The Keystone XL pipeline would carry low-quality crude oil produced in Canada’s tar sands region. While supporters say the oil is needed for energy security, opponents say mining of such oil increases global warming.

Trump’s executive order calls for the Environmental Protection Agency to consult with states, tribes and relevant agencies and issue updated guidance for the states to follow to comply with the intent of the Clean Water Act. The order will also call on the Transportation Department to propose a rule that would allow liquefied natural gas to be shipped in approved rail tank cars.

The second executive order Trump is announcing Wednesday streamlines the process for energy infrastructure that crosses international borders.

Currently, the secretary of state has the authority to issue permits for cross-border infrastructure such as pipelines. The executive order clarifies that the president will make the decision on whether to issue such permits.

World-Herald staff writer Paul Hammel contributed to this report, which includes material from the Washington Post.