Governors, State Legislators Respond to Trump Executive Order on Energy Infrastructure

On April 10, 2019, Donald Trump issued "Executive Order on Promoting Energy Infrastructure and Growth" to promote the development of new oil and gas infrastructure. The order directs several agency actions:

  • Section 3: The Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency is directed to clarify and, as needed, update federal guidance on the Clean Water Act in order to promote private investment in U.S. energy infrastructure through updated permitting processes and regulations.
  • Section 4: The Secretary of Transportation is directed to initiate rulemaking enabling the transport of Liquefied Natural Gas by rail.
  • Section 5: The Secretary of Labor is directed to identify trends between retirement plans and investments in environment, social, and governance issues in the energy sector, and to update Department of Labor guidance to ensure that returns on retirement plan assets are being maximized in according with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.
  • Section 6: The Secretaries of the Interior, Agriculture, and Commerce are directed to develop a master agreement and accelerate renewals for energy project right-of-ways.
  • Section 7: The Secretaries of Transportation and Energy are directed to submit a report on the economic and other effects of the inability to transport sufficient quantities of natural gas and other resources to New England as well as limitations on the export of coal, oil, natural gas, and other domestic energy resources through the West Coast.
  • Section 8: All agency heads are directed to review existing authorities pertaining to the development and transportation of domestically produced energy resources and report on how those authorities can be most efficiently and effectively used.
  • Section 9: The Secretary of Energy is directed to report on opportunities to promote economic growth (including in petrochemical and other energy industries), diversify the economy, and promote workforce development in the Appalachian region.

On April 11, the National Governors Association and the National Conference of State Legislatures released the following joint statement, in particular to Section 3 of the Executive Order concerning the Clean Water Act:

Governors and state legislatures are concerned by Sec. 3 of the recent 'Promoting Energy Infrastructure and Economic Growth' Executive Order which directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to begin a process that could result in a significant constraint on a state's ability to protect their water quality.

The federal government's role should be to support state efforts to achieve water quality goals as laid out in the Clean Water Act. Yet, yesterday's order seeks to upset the balance of cooperative federalism laid out in Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. Section 401 rightly balances state and federal prerogatives and has been faithfully executed for nearly 50 years. While we support efforts to streamline federal review processes, grow American jobs, and promote domestic energy production, a one-size-fits-all change that limits state protection and management of their water resources is the wrong approach. We appreciate that the Executive Order specifically directs the EPA Administrator to consult with states in reviewing Section 401 and look forward to working with the EPA and other federal agencies to ensure that frequent, meaningful, and timely consultation occurs prior to any action that restricts or constrains state authority.

In addition to the Executive Order on Promoting Energy Infrastructure and Growth, Trump also signed on April 10 "Order on the Issuance of Permits with Respect to Facilities and Land Transportation Crossings at the International Boundaries of the United States," which directs the State Department to update the timeline for the permit process for cross-border energy projects to 60 days.