Keystone pipeline

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Trump Signs Executive Actions Rebooting Pipeline Projects

| published January 24, 2017 |

By Keith H. Roberts, Thursday Review contributor

As one of his first actions from the Oval Office, President Donald Trump signed two executive orders this week which may clear the way for the eventual completion of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline—two major energy projects halted by then-President Barack Obama.

Both pipeline projects—neither completed but each at varying stages of construction—have been strenuously opposed by a coalition of environmental and Native American groups.

The larger of the two mega-projects, the Keystone Pipeline—owned primarily by Trans Canada Corporation—was halted in mid-2015 after Obama weighed a variety of environmental concerns, including several detailed studies by U.S. government agencies and private think tanks. Citing potential environmental damage and reports by the U.S. Departments of State and Interior, Obama killed the project which would have connected oil fields in central-western Canada with the central and south-central U.S.

The $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline project—owned principally by Energy Transfer Partners—would move crude oil from the so-called Bakken fields in North Dakota and other areas down through the heart of the continent and toward major refineries along the Gulf Coast. The Dakota Access Pipeline has met with intense resistance by Native American groups which consider its proposed path a desecration of hallowed areas and sacred lands.

Supporters of both projects say that the pipelines are needed to bolster American energy independence and spur economic growth—most especially through lower energy costs. Businesses in both the U.S. and Canada are largely supportive of the projects, and backers say that both pipelines would create thousands of infrastructure and construction jobs while the pipelines are being built, as well as boosting employment in the Midwest and Gulf Coast areas. Such mega-deliver projects, supporters suggest, are just the antidote to paying high prices at the gas station to buy oil from OPEC nations.

But critics say that those estimates are greatly exaggerated and overstate both the power of the economic injections—employment during construction and afterwards—and suggest that neither pipeline will have a decisive impact on the price Americans will pay for energy. Opponents also worry about the logic of spending billions on pipelines to transfer vast quantities of oil at a time when business and government should be focusing on green energy and viable alternatives to fossil fuels, which contribute to greenhouse gases and global warming.

Trump's signature on the two bills effectively restarts both pipeline projects, which will create an interconnect between Canadian oil suppliers and suppliers in the Dakotas with massive refineries along the Gulf Coast.

Related Thursday Review articles:

The Keystone's Neverending Fight; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; Februrary 25, 2015.

OPEC Agrees to Production Cuts; Keith H. Roberts; Thursday Review; December 2, 2016.