Trump grants new permit for Keystone XL pipeline - GulfToday

Trump grants new permit for Keystone XL pipeline

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Donald Trump announcing the construction of TransCanada Corp’s Keystone XL oil pipeline under a new permit. File Photo / Reuters

Washington: US President Donald Trump has granted a new permit for construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, a controversial project that would bring oil from Canada to the US.

The XL project, a crucial segment in a network of pipelines linking Canadian oil fields to US refineries on the Gulf Coast, was blocked in November by a US federal judge.

Trump›s action, issued on Friday and posted online by the White House, gives Canadian company TransCanada permission to «construct, connect, operate and maintain pipeline facilities» at the international border in Phillips County, Montana.

It supersedes a previous permit that Trump had issued in March 2017. TransCanada thanked Trump.

“The president›s action today clarifies the national importance of Keystone XL and aims to bring more than 10 years of environmental review to closure,” it said.

It was not clear Saturday if, under the new permit, the project must also undergo new environmental impact studies.

The project has been fiercely opposed by environmentalists and indigenous groups because of the risk of oil spills and damage to sites considered sacred.

The XL portion of the pipeline calls for construction of a segment from Alberta, Canada to the Midwestern US state of Nebraska, creating a more direct route to the Gulf refineries.

The administration of Barack Obama blocked the project in 2015, citing the environmental risks.

And in blocking the project last November, US District Judge Brian Morris questioned whether a State Department analysis of the project›s cumulative impact on greenhouse gases and Native American land had been sufficiently rigorous.

The State Department had concluded that completing the pipeline was in the national interest of the United States.

The Canadian government also has forcefully advocated for the project, saying the added capacity was needed to relieve an oversaturated pipeline network.

Meanwhile, a federal judge in Alaska has overturned US President Donald Trump’s attempt to open vast areas of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans to oil and gas leasing.

The decision issued late Friday by US District Court Judge Sharon Gleason leaves intact President Barack Obama’s policies putting the Arctic’s Chukchi Sea, part of the Arctic’s Beaufort Sea and a large swath of Atlantic Ocean off the US East Coast off-limits to oil leasing.

Trump›s attempt to undo Obama’s protections was «unlawful” and a violation of the federal Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, Gleason ruled. Presidents have the power under that law to withdraw areas from the national oil and gas leasing programme, as Obama did, but only Congress has the power to add areas to the leasing programme, she said.

The Obama-imposed leasing prohibitions «will remain in full force and effect unless and until revoked by Congress,” Gleason said in her ruling.

Trump’s move to put offshore Arctic and Atlantic areas back into play for oil development came in a 2017 executive order that was part of his «energy dominance” agenda. The order was among a series of actions that jettisoned Obama administration environmental and climate-change initiatives.

The Trump administration has proposed a vastly expanded offshore oil leasing programme to start this year. The five-year Trump leasing programme would offer two lease sales a year in Arctic waters and at least two lease sales a year in the Atlantic. The Trump plan also calls for several lease sales in remote marine areas off Alaska, like the southern Bering Sea, that are considered to hold negligible potential for oil.

Obama had pulled much of the Arctic off the auction block following a troubled offshore Arctic exploration programme pursued by Royal Dutch Shell. Shell spent at least $7 billion trying to explore the Chukchi and part of the Beaufort. The company wrecked one of its drill ships in a grounding and managed to complete only one well to depth. It abandoned the programme in 2015 and relinquished its leases.

Gleason, in a separate case, delivered another decision Friday that blocks the Trump administration’s effort to overturn an Obama-era environmental decision.

Gleason struck down a land trade intended to clear the way for a road to be built though sensitive wetlands in Alaska’s Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.

The Obama administration, after a four-year environmental impact statement process, determined that the land trade and road would cause too much harm to the refuge to be justified. Trump’s then Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke broke the law when he summarily reversed the Obama policy without addressing the facts found in the previous administration’s study of the issue, Gleason ruled.

Separately, US President Donald Trump said on Friday that the Federal Reserve had made a mistake by raising interest rates and blamed the central bank for hurting the US economy and stock markets.

«Had the Fed not mistakenly raised interest rates, especially since there is very little inflation, and had they not done the ridiculously timed quantitative tightening, the 3.0 per cent GDP, & Stock Market, would have both been much higher & World Markets would be in a better place!,” Trump tweeted.

The remarks were part of a new broadside against the independent central bank by the White House in an unusual public split. The Fed›s Board of Governors did not immediately comment.

Agencies