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Trump Takes Executive Action Designed To Speed Approval Of Oil Pipelines


As we mentioned, President Trump took action today to speed up permits for building the Keystone XL and the Dakota Access Pipelines. The oil industry and its supporters are cheering the move. Opponents, including environmentalists, Native Americans, and landowners, have vowed to fight even harder to block pipeline construction. NPR's Jeff Brady reports.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: President Trump's directive today on the pipelines was not a surprise. He made a campaign pledge to do this. But another element of today's announcement is less clear. Trump directed the secretary of commerce to develop a plan that ensures new pipelines - that is the pipes themselves - are made in the U.S.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We will build our own pipeline. We will build our own pipes. That's what it has to do with - like we used to in the old days.

BRADY: It's not exactly clear how this made-in-America directive will affect the two controversial pipelines, but TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone XL, says it is preparing a new application for a cross-border permit to build its pipeline. The Dakota Access Pipeline has been the focus of intense protests for months now. Activists have been camped out on a snowy prairie near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

The company building that pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, did not respond to NPR's interview requests, but it has already constructed more than 90 percent of the project. For the oil industry, this part of today's announcement is not as important as the overall message Trump is sending.

TOM PYLE: The Keystone Pipeline was tied up, was stonewalled, delayed, dragged out for seven-plus years.

BRADY: Tom Pyle heads the Institute for Energy Research, and he blames President Obama and his administration for those delays and for siding with the environmentalists. Pyle says Trump made it clear that permitting processes will be much easier now.

PYLE: The bottom line is that this president welcomes infrastructure projects, including projects that move our oil and gas resources around the country.

BRADY: And in TransCanada's case, that's moving crude from Alberta's oil sands south to refineries on the Gulf Coast. This does not mean TransCanada will have an easy path to approval because there's more than the federal government involved. Jane Kleeb heads Bold Alliance, the group that led a campaign to block approval of the pipeline in Nebraska.

JANE KLEEB: In Nebraska, there's still a two-year process just to review the pipeline route and go through the eminent domain process. So, you know, you're looking at late 2018 for even any construction to begin. And that's if everything goes TransCanada's way.

BRADY: And Kleeb says opponents will do everything they can to ensure it doesn't go the company's way. That's also true for those opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe says it will take legal action to block President Trump's directive, though the tribe wasn't specific. And Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network says the types of protests and clashes seen in North Dakota in recent months will intensify.

DALLAS GOLDTOOTH: If this administration does not pull back from, you know, implementing these orders, it's only going to result in more mass mobilization and civil disobedience on a scale never seen by a newly seated president.

BRADY: For Dakota Access Pipeline protesters, today's development overturns a hard-won victory. When President Obama was in office, they felt like they had the backing of someone who understood their concerns, and there was a chance to stop construction. Under a President Trump, that's going to be a lot more difficult. Jeff Brady, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jeff Brady is a National Desk Correspondent based in Philadelphia, where he covers energy issues and climate change. Brady helped establish NPR's environment and energy collaborative which brings together NPR and Member station reporters from across the country to cover the big stories involving the natural world.
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