Trump order Could make it harder to block pipelines

Trump signing executive order. St. Louis

President Trump is poised this week to sign two executive orders on energy infrastructure while on a trip in Texas. @EPAScottPruitt /Twitter

After speaking at the International Union of Operating Engineers International Training and Education Center, Trump signed two executive orders aiming to make it easier for companies to build oil and gas pipeline projects - and harder for states to block them. The action came after officials in Washington state and NY used the permitting process to stop new energy projects in recent years. The measure required companies to get certifications from states before building interstate pipelines approved by the federal government.

Darren Suarez with the Business Council of NY says three pipeline projects in particular - the Millennium, Constitution, and Northern Access pipelines - have been stalled by NY water quality reviews.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called Trump's first order a "gross overreach of federal authority" that undermines the state's ability to "protect our water quality and our environment".

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 executive order Trump will announce streamlines the procedure for energy infrastructure that spans global boundaries.

"Politically-motivated delays and pipeline bottlenecks in the Permian Basin and around the United States are hindering growth, so we appreciate the Administration's work to bring clarity and certainty to the pipeline construction permitting process", the Texas Oil and Gas Association said in a press release.

In addition to shortening the review process for infrastructure projects, the orders are aimed at limiting states' power to pause construction and giving the president the final word on permits for cross-border projects, among other things.

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"Today's executive orders are an attempt to make necessary changes to ensure federal statute is properly interpreted and followed, and make certain that politically motivated delays blocking pipeline infrastructure comes to an end, " said Tom Pyle, president of AEA.

An official said Tuesday that the new executive order would affect "future" permitting for energy projects at the border.

Trump said he's ending a "war on American energy".

Trump is looking to set stricter timelines and narrow the scope of review states can use to evaluate pipelines and other projects that need CWA permits.

It is unclear if the executive order will have its intended, if any, impact. "Projects like the Millennium Bulk Terminal in Washington would provide a boost not only for Wyoming's coal mines, but for America's economy as a whole".

Fights over state permits have led to years-long delays and protracted federal court battles, with some analysts urging investors to consider " elevated risk premiums" in making decisions about projects created to cross some particularly challenging states. The pipeline will bring natural gas from producers in Pennsylvania to upstate NY, and is supported by labor unions. Approval hinges on two questions: Whether the project is consistent with the protection, conservation and best use of the state's water resources, and whether it would "unreasonably interfere" with the use of state water and wetlands for fishing, navigation or public recreation?

The official said the agency would have to follow normal procedures, including a comment period, and that projects already tied up in litigation "are obviously a much longer-term issue". Under the Clean Water Act, states can refuse to approve and issue a permit for a pipeline project even if it is approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission if the authorities suspect it could harm the quality of water in the state.

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