Pipelines Remain a Flashpoint

Photo: Tom Stromme, The Bismarck Tribune

The President will travel to Texas tomorrow to sign a controversial executive order regarding streamlining the permitting process for oil and gas pipeline projects.  This comes just more than a week after the President signed another controversial executive order to revive the Keystone XL pipeline’s construction, which had been halted by a Montana federal judge’s order.

  • The Hill notes that Trump will sign the order in Crosby, Texas outside of Houston, which, as we reported, was the site of a chemical plant explosion last week that killed one person and injured at least 2 more people.
  • In response to the President’s move to sidestep the judicial order on Keystone XL, the Indigenous Environmental Network immediately filed suit on Friday with the same federal court in Montana, claiming that President Trump lacks the authority to issue pipeline permits as Congress administers federal lands.
  • The Keystone pipeline would cut through historical tribal lands in Montana and South Dakota, and the same judge had rejected the pipeline’s earlier permit because the Interior Department allegedly did not assess the cumulative impacts of greenhouse gases and the risk of oil spills.

White House officials maintain that President Trump’s permits are not subject to court review.  The order the President will sign tomorrow comes at a time when pipeline safety is an increasing concern after several high profile pipeline explosions, including a deadly one last year in South Lawrence, Massachusetts Members of Congress from Massachusetts plan to introduce a bill this week called the Leonel Rondon Pipeline Safety Act, named after the 18-year old victim of the explosion, which is intended to strengthen pipeline safety by closing regulatory loopholes and increasing safety standards.

Why This Matters:  The Trump Administration seems determined to help the oil and gas industry build more pipelines regardless of whether it puts more human lives or precious ancestral lands at risk.  The pipeline industry’s safety record is poor.  At an oversight hearing yesterday, Congressman Daniel Lipinski noted that from 1999 to 2018, “the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) reported 11,992 pipeline incidents that resulted in 317 deaths, 1,302 injuries, and more than $8.1 billion in damages. Incidents increased nearly twofold from 1999 to 2018.”  And in 2018 alone, 8 people were killed and 92 injured in 633 pipeline incidents.  

Pipeline explosion in South Lawrence, MA last year     Photo: AP

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