MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – President Donald Trump signed more executive actions Tuesday – two of which advanced the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines dealing a sharp blow to his predecessor’s legacy on climate change.
Former President Barack Obama had personally halted the Keystone XL project, which was to bring oil from Canada to the U.S., and major protest demonstrations have frozen work on the Dakota pipeline.
Trump, in his continuing effort to undo the past eight years of a Democratic president, invited the Keystone builder, TransCanada, to resubmit its application to the State Department for a presidential permit to construct and operate the pipeline. The company said it would reapply.
Obama halted the proposed pipeline in late 2015, declaring it would undercut U.S. efforts to clinch a global climate change deal that was a centerpiece of his environmental agenda.
Trump also ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to quickly review and approve construction and easement requests for the Dakota Access pipeline, a project that has led to major protests by American Indian groups and their supporters.
“From now on we are going to start making pipelines in the United States,” Trump said from the Oval Office, where he also vowed to require the actual pipe for Keystone to be manufactured in America.
Trump’s actions four days after he took office came on the heels of his decision to withdraw from a major trade agreement as he upends Obama’s policies, winning praise from congressional Republicans. Democrats in energy-producing state also hailed Trump’s actions on the pipelines as long-awaited steps to boost jobs and move the country toward energy independence.
But environmental groups and Native American tribes who have fought both projects for years pledged to defy Trump.
“President Trump will live to regret his actions today,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “Unwittingly he is beginning to build a wall — a wall of resistance. This fight is far from over.”
The 1,179-mile Keystone XL pipeline would run from Canada to Nebraska, where it would join other lines already leading to refineries along the Gulf Coast.
Trump directed the State Department and other agencies to make a decision within 60 days of a final application and declared that a 2014 State Department environmental study satisfies required reviews under environmental and endangered species laws. Environmental groups promised a legal challenge, arguing a new application requires a new review.
State Department approval is needed because the pipeline would cross the northern U.S border.
As a practical matter, the Dakota Access project is likely to be completed first. The company building it says it is complete except for a section that would pass under the Missouri River near a camp in North Dakota where pipeline opponents are demonstrating.
The 1,200-mile pipeline would carry North Dakota oil through South Dakota and Iowa to an existing pipeline in Illinois. The proposed route skirts the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s reservation and crosses under Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir in North Dakota that serves as the tribe’s drinking water source.
The tribe’s chairman accused Trump of breaking the law, citing treaty rights with the United States, and promised to fight the action in court.
“Americans know this pipeline was unfairly rerouted toward our nation and without our consent,” Dave Archambault said.
The Army decided last year to explore alternate routes for the Dakota pipeline after the tribe and its supporters said it threatened drinking water and Native American cultural sites. The company developing the pipeline, Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, says it will be safe.
“Today’s news is a breath of fresh air, and proof that President Trump won’t let radical special-interest groups stand in the way of doing what’s best for American workers,” said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate.
In July, the Army Corps of Engineers granted the company needed permits, but in September the agency said further analysis was needed. On Dec. 4, the assistant Army secretary for civil works, Jo-Ellen Darcy, said alternate routes needed to be considered.
Nearly 600 pipeline opponents have been arrested in North Dakota since last year. An encampment on Corps land along the pipeline route was home to thousands of protesters who call themselves “water protectors.”
Trump hailed the Keystone project during a late October campaign swing through Florida, saying, “We’re going to approve energy infrastructure projects like the Keystone pipeline and many more.” He said it could provide “a lot of jobs, a lot of good things.”
Until last year, Trump owned a small amount of stock in Energy Transfer Partners and at least $100,000 in Phillips 66, an energy company that owns one-quarter of the Dakota pipeline. Trump sold the shares last year as part of a wide-ranging stock divestment, a spokesman said.
Environmental groups blasted Tuesday’s order as a bid by Trump to serve the oil industry. Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, is a former Exxon Mobil CEO, and his pick for energy secretary, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, owns stock in Energy Transfers and served on its board until his nomination for the energy post.
“Donald Trump is a con man and this is a con on a massive scale,” said Bill McKibben, co-founder of the environmental group 350.org.
Earlier in the day the president met with auto industry leaders among them General Motors CEO Mary Barra and Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne.
Just a day before the president met with CEO’s, union officials, and the bipartisan congressional leadership.
Wedged in between those meetings were three executive actions.
As the night ended, President Trump re-litigated election results with Congressional allies and opponents.
While meeting with Congressional leaders in the state dining room, sources say, President Trump told lawmakers he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton due to three to five million illegal ballots – an unsubstantiated talking point that was further reiterated by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer in Tuesday’s daily briefing.
Earlier in the Oval Office, the president devoted time to symbolically amplifying top campaign promises – three “presidential memorandums” on trade, abortion and federal hiring. One withdrew the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – a deal that Trump helped torpedo during the campaign.
U.S. allies Japan and Australia backed the deal with nine other Pacific-rim countries. Former President Barack Obama pushed it but got nowhere. Pro-trade Republicans lost the debate to the Trump protectionist wave.
With union leaders, Trump pushed an expansion of spending on roads, bridges and other infrastructure. It’s a topic that many unions support and Congressional Democrats have warmed up to.
The president also imposed a freeze on all new federal hiring – exceptions were made for the military and jobs with a national security or public safety role. One expert suggested the action could affect as little as one-fifth of the federal workforce.
Trump also reinstated the so-called Mexico City policy. It requires foreign non-government organizations that receive funding from the U.S. to refrain from performing or promoting abortions.
President Trump is also expected to sign another executive order this week implementing a five-year ban on former administration officials working as lobbyists. Trump said he’ll announce his pick to fill the Supreme Court vacancy next week.
“We will pick a truly great Supreme Court Justice, but I’ll be announcing it next week,” said President Trump.
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