On April 10, President Donald Trump signed two executive orders with the goal of accelerating construction of oil and gas pipelines and other projects. The White House says the orders will enhance the production and transport of oil and natural gas between states and across international borders.
The first order is directed at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It requests that the agency reviews its rules to make the process more difficult for states to invoke provisions of the Clean Water Act that challenge pipeline projects.
The second order would significantly reduce the often-lengthy State Department review process for international pipelines by transferring approval authority from the secretary of state directly to the president. Projects such as the Keystone XL oil pipeline would benefit most from this proposed change.
What’s the point?
While there’s little doubt these executive orders will be challenged in court by fossil fuel opponents and environmentalists, they are indeed another sign of this administration’s support for the growth of the oil and gas industry.
If these orders pass through the courts without change, they have the potential to remove a number of significant time-costing burdens on the industry and allow for greater competition with exporters in Iran and elsewhere. Just last year, the U.S. became a net oil exporter for the first time since the 1940s and saw energy security risks reach their lowest point in more than two decades.
In addition to its request to reduce regulation that the President says “undermines our independence and national security,” the first executive order would also make it easier to transport natural gas when pipelines are deemed unusable. It would update Department of Transportation safety regulations on liquefied natural gas (LNG) stations and allow transport of LNG in approved railroad tank cars.
The second executive order would put an end to, as President Trump says, the “war on American energy” by giving the commander in chief exclusive authority to issue, deny or amend permits for infrastructure projects that cross U.S. international boundaries.
Why should I care?
Pipeline construction delays are something the oil and gas industry knows all too well. Regulation, legal challenges, activism, and more, have halted pipeline construction and, in turn, prevented valuable resources from reaching more people at home and abroad.
Natural gas production is already at or nearing all-time highs. Without a way for this resource to be easily transported across our own country and exported to other countries across the globe, the potential of the industry is severely limited. After all, the upstream can only take us so far.
Speeding up the transportation of natural gas will create more downstream opportunities. It will create more jobs. It will enable economies to flourish not just in the Appalachian region and Texas, but across the U.S. With our growing supply, the processing capabilities of oil and natural gas are vast. Yet, until Washington makes it easier for natural gas production companies to get this resource where it needs to go, the country will always hit a self-inflicted ceiling.