Trump wields power on pipeline, energy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Eager to jump-start the stalled Keystone XL oil pipeline and other energy projects, President Donald Trump has acted to assert executive power over pipelines and such infrastructure.

He issued a new permit for Keystone XL and insisted this exercise of presidential authority was not subject to judicial review. Then he signed an executive order clarifying that the president alone has the power to grant permits for cross-border projects such as pipelines. A separate order makes it harder for states to block pipelines and other energy projects on the basis of environmental concerns.

Taken together, the actions amount to a broad assertion of power that reverses more than 50 years of precedent that delegated decision-making on energy projects to individual agencies.

Trump has shown a willingness to override his own agencies to accomplish his aims. His actions, if upheld by the courts, could consolidate power over energy projects at the White House, increasing the influence of the president’s political advisers and potentially cutting out experts and career officials throughout the government.

“Too often badly needed energy infrastructure is being held back by special interest groups, entrenched bureaucracies and radical activists,” Trump said Wednesday before signing the executive orders at an event in Texas.

Pipeline opponents say Trump acted illegally. They have asked a federal court to block the new Keystone permit, arguing that it is an effort to get around an earlier court ruling.

But one legal expert said Trump’s approach might succeed.

“He has now created a whole new decision-making structure” for cross-border pipelines, said Richard Pierce, a law professor at George Washington University.

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