On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order reversing Obama’s actions to stall two critical oil pipelines. The pipelines, which would yield jobs and economic growth, remain vehemently opposed by environmental groups and native American tribes.
First, Trump signed an executive order on the Keystone XL pipeline. “We’ll see if we can get that pipeline built,” the president said as he signed the order. “A lot of jobs, 28,000 jobs, great construction jobs.” Next, he signed an order to expedite the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL). A State Department report put the total number of jobs at 42,100 — but this large number counts jobs only indirectly related to the project, which would employ about 3,900 annual workers for two years and 50 long-term employees. It would boost U.S. domestic product by $3.4 billion.
“This is about streamlining the incredibly cumbersome, long, horrible permitting process and reducing regulatory burdens for domestic manufacturing,” Trump explained, as he signed two more executive orders, mandating the use of American-manufactured pipes and expediting environmental reviews and approvals for “critical infrastructure.”
“The regulatory process in this country has become a tangled up mess and very unfair to people,” Trump said. He recalled speaking with business owners who have given up in the process because it is “so long and cumbersome.” The president did not guarantee that all projects would be approved, but he suggested that “if it’s a no, we’ll give them a quick no.”
The Keystone XL pipeline has been controversial, and a litmus test for environmental groups, for many years. President Obama’s State Department held up the permitting process for years, finally rejecting the application in November 2015. In response, the company behind the project, TransCanada, sued in federal court.
As North Dakota Senator John Hoeven put it, “the president denied the Keystone XL pipeline permit, even though Congress approved it on a bipartisan basis, all six states along the route approved it and the American people overwhelmingly support it.”
While environmental groups have engaged in absurd hyperbole, calling the pipeline “game over for the climate,” studies from the State Department and the Council on Foreign Relations agree that the pipeline will have very little impact on climate in the long run. Canada will continue to extract oil from the tar sands, and that oil will be consumed, with or without the pipeline.
After “11 volumes of analysis,” the State Department reached a rather uninspiring conclusion: “No single infrastructure project will alter the course of oil development in Alberta.” On the other hand, using the pipeline could decrease the amount of emissions involved in transporting the oil, the State Department report found. Rail transportation, in place of the Keystone XL pipeline, “would result in 28 percent to 42 percent more emissions than the pipeline.”
Then there’s the jobs angle. When Hillary Clinton rejected the Keystone pipeline, the Teamsters Union made a statement declining to endorse her. The AFL-CIO, another notoriously Democrat-friendly union, also supports the project.
Before the order was signed Tuesday morning, TransCanada stock climbed as much as 1.1 percent. A similar boost came to Energy Transfer Equity LP (3.3 percent) and Energy Transfer Partners LP (1.7 percent), the company behind the DAPL, Bloomberg reported.
After months of protests by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota, the Army did not approve an easement to allow construction of the DAPL to continue along its planned route, suggesting the pipeline follow a different route instead. Work on the pipeline — a 1,200-mile, four-state pipeline which would carry oil from western North Dakota to Illinois — effectively halted last December.
The Sioux tribe joined with environmental protesters from across the country to block the project in April, but the protests grew in intensity throughout last year. A sort of battle exploded in late November, as a sheriff’s department used tear gas, concussion grenades, and a water cannon against protesters’ rocks, burning logs, and slingshots.
The tribe and its allies have warned that a leak from the pipeline could contaminate drinking water and construction could damage sacred sites. Last week, a total of 27 people were arrested in fresh protests against Trump and his anticipated support for the pipeline.
Nevertheless, Trump held firm on the projects, pushing for jobs and economic growth. Here is the video of him signing the orders.