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Trump Reverses Obama, Approves Keystone and Dakota Pipelines

New president speeds federal permits, environmental review processes

Donald Trump greets President Barack Obama moments before Trump was sworn in as the 45th president on Jan. 20. Four days later, he reversed Obama's decisions on pipeline projects. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Donald Trump greets President Barack Obama moments before Trump was sworn in as the 45th president on Jan. 20. Four days later, he reversed Obama's decisions on pipeline projects. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump signaled Tuesday that jobs will come before environmental concerns under his watch by advancing a Canadian company’s application to build the Keystone XL pipeline and a Dallas-based firm’s Dakota Access pipeline. 

Trump, speaking for the second consecutive day from the Oval Office, added a caveat, however. He said both approvals, a major win for congressional Republicans, are “subject to terms and conditions that will be negotiated by us.”

GOP lawmakers were eager to applaud the move.

“It’s about time,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said in a statement. “The unfortunate reality is that these important infrastructure projects were used by special interests to advance their radical anti-energy agenda and were, therefore, needlessly halted by the last administration — to the detriment of America’s national interest. These pipelines will strengthen our nation’s energy supply and help keep energy costs low for American families.”

The new president also signed a presidential memorandum that would streamline “the incredibly cumbersome, long, horrible permitting process and reducing regulatory burdens for domestic manufacturing.”

“Many of the people that we’ve been meeting with … the process is so long and cumbersome that they give up before the end,” Trump told reporters. “If it’s no, we’ll give them a quick no. And if it’s a yes, it’s like, ‘Let’s start building.’” 

[Trump Executive Actions Put Leaders on the Spot]

He signed a memorandum that would require the domestic construction of oil-transporting pipes, “unless there’s difficulties with that,” he said.

“We are, and I am, very insistent that if we are going to build pipelines in the United States, the pipes should be built in the United States,” the president said, later adding “like we used to, in the old days.”

Doing so, Trump said behind a freshly polished Resolute Desk, will “put a lot of workers, a lot of skilled workers, back to work.”

An executive order covered the “expediting of environmental reviews and approvals of high-priority infrastructure projects. We intend to fix our country,” he said. “We can’t be in an environmental process for 15 years if a bridge is going to be falling down or a highway is crumbling.”

Viewed together, Tuesday’s handful of executive actions are aimed at helping Trump fulfill his campaign-trail pledge to revive the American manufacturing sector and create jobs.

Under former President Barack Obama, the State Department conducted an assessment that found the $8 billion Keystone XL project would not have lowered gas prices for drivers in the U.S., as its proponents claimed. Obama told reporters on Nov. 6, 2015, that he concluded the plan was “neither the silver bullet” for the U.S. economy nor a sure-fire cause of “climate disaster” as claimed by those on either side of the issue.

Even before applying his signature to a memorandum moving the project forward, Trump sent a message about his view of the intersection of job-creating business deals and environmental issues.


The 45th president told a group of U.S. automobile sector executives on Tuesday that his administration will be “extremely hospitable” to the private sector.

“I think we’ll go down as one of the most friendly countries and right now, it’s not,” he said, taking a jab at Obama and his team. “I have friends that want to build in the United States, they go many, many years and then they can’t get their environmental permit over something that nobody ever heard of before.

“And it’s absolutely crazy,” Trump said in his typical blunt fashion. “I am, to a large extent, an environmentalist, I believe in it. But it’s out of control,” he said of regulations.

Trump’s actions Tuesday clearly reveal the differences between him and Obama on such matters.

After rejecting the Keystone project, Obama said “shipping dirty crude oil” through the U.S. would not have increased America’s energy security. Trump’s decisions are a blow to Obama’s congressional Democratic allies, who have long argued that the pipeline would wreak ample environmental damage along its path from the U.S.-Canadian border to the Gulf Coast.

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