President Trump announced last week that he would be signing two executive orders in an effort to hurry construction of several oil pipelines. One of the orders grants that power to approve international oil pipelines to the Secretary of State. The other order is designed to allow the Environmental Protection Agency to deregulate the Clean Water Act, Section 401, effectively making it much harder for individual states to deny oil companies permits based on the effect of local water pollution they will have.
Executive Order 13867 seeks to grant the president increased authority in permitting or denying “construction, connection, operation, or maintenance of infrastructure projects at an international border of the United States (cross-border infrastructure).” Furthermore, the order grants the Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, the authority to receive all applications for presidential permits concerning cross-border pipelines, bridges, water and sewage infrastructure, and “facilities for the transportation of persons or things, or both, to or from a foreign country.”
Executive Order 13868 seeks to ensure that “The United States will continue to be the undisputed global leader in crude oil and natural gas production for the foreseeable future.” In this effort, the order demands a single point of accountability in the permitting process to get rid of redundant studies or reviews, transfers the implementation of new clean water regulations to the EPA, and grants the Secretary of Transportation the ability to make new rules regarding the safety of natural gas infrastructure.
The two executive orders are widely seen as an effort to limit the rights of state governments in how they decide to grant permits to dirty energy infrastructure, and overtly insist that the industries of coal, oil, and natural gas be propped up by better, government-directed investments.
Together, the orders are likely to help speed the construction of currently stalled projects including the Keystone XL Pipeline, the Constitution Pipeline, and the Pilgrim Pipeline, all of which face immense and growing discontent in the states in which they are being built. It is important to note, however, that despite the favorable stance given to dirty industries such as coal, oil, and natural gas in the orders, the real danger of their language is the expanded authority of the executive branch to dictate infrastructure policy across US borders.
Indeed, the clause in order 13867 allowing the president to effectively govern the use of any infrastructure along US borderlands including transportation and international connections could well see future use in the administration’s quest to lock up the US-Mexico border. Whatever the future ramifications for presidential authority, the oil industry has scored a moderate win in the legislation, and is likely to profit from the executive attempt to bail them out.
- Climate Deregulation Tracker
- The Consensus Project
- The Union of Concerned Scientists
- United Nations Environment Programme