One of the executive orders signed by Trump basically extracts the U.S. Department of State from the permitting process for any project that crosses international boundaries, like Keystone. Former Secretary of State John Kerry also recommended against the line, saying it would not add to this country’s energy security but would contribute more greenhouse gases.
Still, it is the states where the line goes through that are erecting the toughest barriers. Nebraska had balked at Keystone.
Trump also signed orders to streamline the environmental reviews of projects that are deemed a “high priority.” However, the president said that the contract with each pipeline company would have to be renegotiated.
“We intend to fix our country, our bridges our roadways,” Trump said, as quoted in Bloomberg. “We can’t be in an environmental process for 15 years if a bridge is going to be falling down or if a highway is crumbling.”
Just how is oil and natural gas transported in this country? Natural gas, of course, moves exclusively by pipeline unless it is liquefied and shipped overseas by tanker. Oil, meantime, uses pipelines 70 percent of the time, river barges 23 percent, trucks 4 percent and railway 3 percent. Of note, analysts say that it can cost as much as five times more to transport oil by rail than it does pipe, for moderate to long distances.
As for Dakota, Energy Partners says that the line would eliminate as many as 740 rail cars and 250 trucks. It also says that the line is 70 miles from the Standing Rock Sioux’s water resources in North Dakota.
Keystone, meanwhile, would deliver 900,000 barrels of crude that would flow from Canada and would help ease imports from more distant sources like the Middle East. And, if TransCanada the architect of the would-be line, were so inclined, it would pipe its fuel westward before having it shipped to Asia. That would create even more emissions than a direct link to the Lower 48.
“The executive order is really a narrow thing that would take the State Department out of reviewing cross border pipelines with respect to Keystone,” says Rob Barnett, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence, at a web conference on Tuesday. “There are still many other steps in the process, such as getting state approval.
“Building a pipeline is a complex endeavor,” he adds. “While Trump’s executive order may take one step out of the process, it is not as if you can go out and begin construction. Friendlier, yes. But you can’t just wave a wand and build the line by fiat.”