CROSBY, Texas/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump signed two executive orders in the heart of the Texas energy hub on Wednesday seeking to speed natural gas, coal and oil projects delayed by coastal states as he looks to build support ahead of next year’s election.
U.S. President Donald Trump displays an executive order he signed on energy and infrastructure at the International Union of Operating Engineers International Training and Education Center in Crosby, Texas, U.S., April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Trump’s orders direct his Environmental Protection Agency to change a part of the U.S. clean water law that has allowed states, on the basis of environmental reasons, to delay projects such as pipelines to carry natural gas to New England and coal export terminals on the West Coast.
“My action today will cut through destructive permitting delays and denials … what takes you 20 years to get a permit, those days are gone,” said Trump, surrounded by workers in hard hats and yellow vests.
He signed the orders at a training center for petroleum industry workers near Houston, an event sandwiched between fundraising events for the 2020 campaign.
An environmentalist decried the move. “Trump can try to rewrite regulations in favor of Big Oil, but he can’t stop people power and our movement,” said May Boeve, the head of 350.org.
The orders direct the EPA to review and update guidance issued during the administration of Democratic President Barack Obama on the so-called 401 provision of the Clean Water Act. The measure required companies to get certifications from states before building interstate pipelines approved by the federal government.
New York state used it to block pipelines that would send natural gas to New England, forcing the region at times to import liquefied natural gas from countries including Russia.
In 2017, Washington Governor Jay Inslee, a Democrat and 2020 candidate for president, denied a water permit for the Millennium Bulk Terminal, a coal export facility that would have expanded the ability of companies to send Western coal to Asian markets.
Inslee, who has centered his campaign on tackling climate change, slammed Trump’s latest move on energy.
“If Donald Trump is proposing it, it a) violates science and b) probably violates any sense of economic growth, because we know the largest economic growth is now coming from the development of new energy technologies,” Inslee said on the sidelines of a conference in New York.
The orders are part of the Trump administration’s policy of “energy dominance” to increase oil, gas and coal production, but forcing the EPA changes will take time. The official said the agency would have to follow normal procedures, including a comment period, and that projects already tied up in litigation “are obviously a much longer-term issue.”
One order directs the transportation secretary to propose allowing liquefied natural gas, a liquid form of the fuel, to be shipped in approved rail cars, a change that could increase its flow between terminals and markets.
The orders could also speed projects in Texas. Energy investors vying for permits to build oil export terminals along the Gulf Coast say they have worked closely with Trump officials in a bid to speed regulatory reviews of facilities capable of loading supertankers.
U.S. and state agencies overseeing permit applications have taken too long to approve projects, the investors said, adding they were worried their projects would miss the most profitable years of the U.S. crude export boom.
Four energy groups led by Trafigura AG, Carlyle Group, Enterprise Products Partners LP and Enbridge Inc have applied to build terminals in Texas.
Reporting by Jeff Mason in Crosby, Texas, and Timothy Gardner in Washington; Additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici in Washington, Collin Eaton in Houston and Jessica Resnick-Ault in New York; Editing by Peter Cooney and Jonathan Oatis