A new day has arrived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and Tuesday made it crystal clear. In a move that President Donald Trump had promised during his campaign, he signed two executive orders to move forward with construction of the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines.
Trump’s orders roll back key Obama administration environmental policies in favor of expanding energy infrastructure. The atmosphere in the White House is night and day from less than a week ago. The projects mark a bitter defeat for Native American tribes and climate activists, who vowed to fight the decisions through legal action.
Trump now is restarting the Dakota pipeline and re-starting the C$8 billion ($6.1 billion) Keystone XL project, which was rejected in 2015 by then-President Barack Obama. However, it is not yet clear how exactly the orders will move the projects forward.
Among groups that cheered the news was the North Dakota Petroleum Council. They are the trade group for the state’s oil producers who are relying on Dakota Access to expand their crude transport options. “We think this is a great step forward for energy security in America,” said Ron Ness, the council’s president.
The entire project has been an ongoing contention between two past administrations over the last decade. In that time, the U.S. shale revolution has redefined oil flows. So much so that domestic refiners have a huge surplus allowing far less imports; something Trump has made a priority in his “Make America Great Again” approach.
A jubilant Canadian Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr said in Calgary that TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL has all the regulatory approvals it needs in Canada, and that the project would be “very positive for Canada.” The move will be a huge boost to the Canadian economy. There had been threats to reroute the pipeline to the western shores of Canada for export to China.
TransCanada shares last traded up 2.6 percent on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Most of the 1,172-mile (1,885 km) Dakota pipeline was completed by the summer of 2016, except for a small section under Lake Oahe, a reservoir that forms part of the river. The political divisions in the U.S. have stalled the project and will face fierce rebuke from environmental groups.
One group in particular is gleeful about Trump’s order. He will meet with leaders of labor unions, including the Building and Construction trades group and the Laborers International Union of North America, who have been vocal supporters of both pipeline projects.
Both labor groups had endorsed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 U.S. election, but disagreed with her opposition to the Keystone pipeline. They may come to regret that decision. In a statement on Tuesday, the U.S. Teamsters Union noted that the pipelines would “put thousands of Americans” to work.
The billionaire businessman is looking for new friends early in his administration. Labor unions were one of his primary early targets being from a traditional Democratic voting block.