President Trump on Tuesday gave the go-ahead for construction of two controversial oil pipelines, the Keystone XL and the Dakota Access.
As he signed the paperwork in an Oval Office photo op, Trump said his administration is “going to renegotiate some of the terms” of the Keystone project, which would carry crude oil from the tar sands of western Canada and connect to an existing pipeline to the Gulf Coast.
The pipelines had been stopped during the Obama administration. The State Department rejected a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, and President Obama ordered work halted on the Dakota pipeline after Native American groups and other activists protested its route near culturally sensitive sites in North Dakota.
Trump said the Keystone XL pipeline will mean “a lot of jobs, 28,000 construction jobs, great construction jobs.”
He also signed a decree that the pipelines will be built with American steel, “like we used to in the old days,” and two others: one that he said will streamline “the incredibly cumbersome, long, horrible permitting process and reducing regulatory burdens for domestic manufacturing,” and another he says will expedite environmental reviews and approvals “for high-priority infrastructure projects.”
“We can’t be in an environmental process for 15 years if a bridge is going to be falling down or if a highway is crumbling,” Trump said.
The president’s actions quickly reignited the debate over the pipelines; supporters say the pipelines will lead to lower energy costs and create jobs, while environmentalists argue they will lead to the release of more climate-warming carbon into the atmosphere.
The reaction from lawmakers was swift. Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont said Trump’s actions to advance the pipelines will “put the short-term profits of the fossil fuel industry ahead of the future of our planet.”
But North Dakota Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp said Trump’s actions “are a needed step” toward the goal of an all-of-the-above North American energy strategy.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which protested the Dakota Access pipeline, said it will take legal action to fight Trump’s decision, saying the pipeline “risks contaminating tribal and American water supplies while disregarding treaty rights.”
In remarks to automakers on Tuesday morning, Trump proclaimed himself an environmentalist, but added, “It’s out of control, and we’re going to make a very short process, and we’re going to either give you your permits or we’re not going to give you your permits, but you’re going to know very quickly.”