WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Tuesday revived two pipeline projects blocked by his predecessor on environmental grounds, signalling his determination to undo Barack Obama’s legacy.
Trump gave a conditional go-ahead to the Keystone XL pipeline — which would carry oil from Canadian tar sands to US refineries on the Gulf Coast — and an equally controversial pipeline crossing in North Dakota.
Both had been put on hold by Obama’s administration.
True to his claim to be a hard-charging dealmaker, Trump said both pipeline projects would only be built subject to renegotiated terms and conditions.
“We are going to renegotiate some of the terms and, if they like, we’ll see if we can get that pipeline built,” he said.
Since being sworn in on Friday Trump has begun rolling out an orthodox Republican agenda.
He has moved to curb funding for abortions, embraced Israel, frozen government hiring and sought to loosen environmental regulations.
His administration has also sought to place a tighter grip on departments that may not be sympathetic to his politics.
On day one, Trump’s Interior Department ordered staff to report any correspondence from Congress, governors, environmental groups or industry organizations, according to an internal memo obtained by Agence France-Presse.
Certain meetings, regulations and environmental notices are also to be reported to the department’s executive secretariat.
“No correspondence should be cleared to go to Congress or to any Governor until it has been reviewed by the Acting Chief of Staff and/or Senior White House Advisor,” the document states.
Trump has sought to put his nationalist and populist print on policy, especially on the economy and trade.
Made in USA
The freshly minted president indicated that one possible focus of renegotiation for the revived pipeline projects could be who makes the actual piping.
In a separate executive order issued Tuesday, Trump decreed that pipes should be American made — echoing his “America First” doctrine.
“I am very insistent that if we are going to build pipelines in the United States the pipes should be made in the United States,” Trump said.
“We want to build the pipe, put a lot of steel workers back to work.”
Most, although not all, oil pipelines are buried underground and made of carbon steel.
Obama had rejected a permit from Calgary-based firm TransCanada to build the 1,179-mile (1,900 kilometer) Alberta-Nebraska section of the project.
Environmentalists have assailed the project, arguing that the Alberta deposits produce some of the “dirtiest” crude in the world.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has helped lead the international charge against climate warming, but his government has firmly supported the pipeline, seeing it as a means of boosting business.
“In both the conversations I’ve had with President Trump, Keystone XL came up and I reiterated my support for the project,” Trudeau said at a retreat in Calgary, Alberta — Canada’s oil industry hub.
“I’ve been on the record for many years supporting it because it leads to economic growth and good jobs for Canadians,” he said.
Ahead of Trump’s announcement, Resources Minister James Carr said the move would create 4,500 construction jobs.
The project will also mean less oil being transported by rail. “The fact is we know that oil in railcars is more expensive, more polluting and, most importantly, more dangerous,” Trudeau noted, alluding to the 2013 derailment of a train carrying crude that leveled most of a Quebec town in 2013.
The Dakota Access Pipeline is more of a political hot potato in the United States.
Native Americans and their supporters strongly protested against the project, prompting the US Army Corps of engineers — which has approval authority — to nix the plans under the Obama administration.
Thousands of protesters had camped in freezing winter temperatures to block the pipeline’s planned route which the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe says creates a risk of water pollution and endangers areas with sacred historic artifacts.
The standoff — which included some 2,000 military veterans who joined the protest — set off violent clashes with law enforcement as well as sympathetic demonstrations nationwide.
But Trump has supported the 1,172-mile (1,886-kilometer) oil pipeline, which would snake through four US states.
Environmental groups vowed to keep fighting the pipeline in court and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe accused Trump of violating treaty rights.
“We are not opposed to energy independence. We are opposed to reckless and politically motivated development projects… that ignore our treaty rights and risk our water,” said Dave Archambault, chairman of the group.
The sheriff of Morton County, North Dakota, where the main protest camp is located, issued a statement urging protesters to remain “peaceful and lawful” in their actions, and saying he intended to ask the Trump administration for law enforcement backup. AFP