WASHINGTON, D.C.—Environmental advocates suspected it was coming, but few thought it would happen this quickly.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump ordered the re-authorization and rapid completion of the Dakota Access and the Keystone XL pipelines, two controversial infrastructure projects that will make it easier to transport fossil fuels across North America. The move tries to fulfill a “Day One” promise of Trump’s to weaken the regulatory procedures blocking the pipelines.
“The regulatory processes in this country have become a tangled-up mess, and very unfair,” he said as he signed the order. In a less Trumpian register, the document itself says, “I believe that construction and operation of lawfully permitted pipeline infrastructure serve the national interest.”
It is Trump’s first major attempt to dismantle former President Obama’s environmental and climate record. Whether it will be a successful attempt is another story. Obama’s climate actions were mostly premised on the power of the executive, so they may be easy for a different executive to undo. But lawyers warn that the fights to come could mire Trump in years-long court battles over regulatory law.
Tuesday’s events fit an emerging pattern for the Trump administration. In the mid-morning, the White House announced that the president had signed orders reviving the two controversial pipeline projects. But it did not actually release the orders themselves until the mid-afternoon—which left lawyers and reporters alike scrambling to parse the text of the new laws from an Associated Press photo. This also meant that the national press reported the news for hours without knowing, exactly, what it entailed. Finally, by dusk, hundreds of people assembled outside the White House to protest the orders.