USA Today — March 24, 2017

Trump grants Keystone permit, declares ‘a great day for American jobs’

WASHINGTON — Calling it "a great day for American jobs," President Trump signed a permit Friday to allow the construction of the 1,179-mile Keystone XL pipeline that his predecessor had blocked.

"The fact is that this $8 billion investment in American energy was delayed for so long demonstrates how the American government has failed the American people," Trump said as he met with his National Economic Council in the Oval Office Friday.

President Barack Obama had rejected the project in 2015 with a legal declaration that the pipeline was not in the national interest. Environmental groups had opposed the project because it would ship heavy, dirty-burning Canadian oil to refineries.

The decision by the State Department was largely anticlimactic, as Trump had signaled his administration's intent to issue the permit in a presidential memorandum signed Jan. 24. That memo called on Transcanada to reapply for a permit and gave the State Department 60 days to review the application. That clock ran out Friday.

Transcanada President Russ Girling, appearing in the Oval Office with the president, used Trump-like language to describe the project.

"There's thousands of people ready and itching to get to work," he said. "We’re going to use the best technology. It’s going to create thousands of jobs."

But the project still faces legal hurdles in Nebraska, and Girling said the company was still seeking "the other necessary permits that we need."

"I'll call Nebraska," Trump said, adding praise for Gov. Pete Ricketts. "Pete is a fantastic governor. I'll call him today."

Trump had also directed the use of American-made steel in pipeline projects, but the White House has since said that won't apply to Keystone.

Environmental groups condemned the decision and promised to challenge it using "every tool in the kit."

"Keystone XL is all risk and no reward for the American people," said Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "It remains, and always will be, a threat to our land, water and climate."

The State Department reversed its 2015 decision in a memo by Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon Jr., an Obama holdover. He said one of Obama's chief reasons for rejecting the permit — an attempt to show U.S. leadership on climate change ahead of the Paris agreements on greenhouse gas emissions — had become moot.

"Since then, there have been numerous developments related to global action to address climate change, including announcements by many countries of their plans to do so. In this changed global context, a decision to approve this proposed project at this time would not undermine U.S. objectives in this area," Shannon wrote in justifying the reversal. "Moreover, a decision to approve this proposed project would support U.S. priorities relating to energy security, economic development, and infrastructure."

Shannon said volatility in oil production had also increased since 2015, "largely attributable to political instability and manipulative market tactics on the part of OPEC," the international oil cartel. But he also noted that the project is unlikely to have any meaningful effect on fuel prices.

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