Executive Orders Limit State Barriers To New Pipeline, Energy Projects

Apr 10, 2019

Livestream of President Trump signing two executive orders in Texas
Credit NBC

President Trump signed two executive orders in Texas this afternoon that would benefit the oil and gas industry. The orders will limit state barriers to new pipeline and energy projects.

For pipeline development, the power to confirm new projects would be in the President's hands, rather than the Secretary of State. That would limit the level of environmental review required.

For new energy projects, states the power to consider federal projects over time would be limited. That came from Section 401 of the Clean Water Act.

Kathleen Sgamma, President of the Western Energy Alliance, said it makes sense to put some limits around states's; ability to reject permits.

"Putting some sideboards around makes sense because they're starting to affect interstate commerce and that is definitely something the federal government can weigh in on," she said, adding how important energy development is to local economies.

Sgamma points to a recent court decision that allowed Washington state to scuttle a coal export terminal.
Wyoming's U.S. Senator John Barrasso supports the executive orders. He wrote in a press release that revisions will stop states from hijacking the Clean Water Act.

"Washington state and east coast states have used this authority to slow down important energy projects. The president's executive order compliments the legislation I introduced yesterday with several other Republican senators. The water quality certification process is designed to protect America's water, not advance liberal political agendas," Barrasso said.

Connie Wilbert, head of Sierra Club's Wyoming chapter, said the orders are an attempt to undermine protections of the Clean Water Act.

"It is a very clear attack on the right of states and the people who live where these kind of projects might be built to have a say in how and where they're constructed," she said.

Wilbert said these orders do not support local control or states's rights.

The Western Governors Association released a statement criticizing the changes and recommended ways to limit the waiting time for states acting on requests within CWA Section 401.

"Western Governors have consistently asserted that curtailing or reducing state authority under CWA Section 401 would inflict serious harm to the division of state and federal authorities established by Congress."

The orders have been expected for several months. Environmentalists expect the moves to be challenged in court. Final text of the two orders has not been published yet on the federal register.