Trump to fight states delaying energy projects
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump will issue two executive orders in the heart of the Texas energy hub on Wednesday seeking to speed gas, coal and oil projects delayed by coastal states as he looks to build support ahead of next year’s election.
Trump’s orders will direct his Environmental Protection Agency to change a part of the U.S. clean water law that has allowed states, on the basis of environmental reasons, to delay projects such as pipelines to carry natural gas to New England and coal export terminals on the West Coast.
Trump will issue the orders at a training center for union members in the petroleum industry in Houston, an event sandwiched between fundraising events in Texas for the 2020 campaign.
“Outdated federal guidance and regulations issued by the EPA have caused confusion and uncertainty leading to project delays, lost jobs and reduced economic performance,” a senior administration official told reporters in a conference call. “We are not trying to take away power from the states, but we are trying to make sure that state actions comply with the statutory intent of the law.”
An environmentalist decried the planned orders. “Trump can try to rewrite regulations in favor of Big Oil, but he can’t stop people power and our movement,” said May Boeve, the head of 350.org.
The orders will direct the EPA to review and update guidance issued during the administration of Democratic President Barack Obama on the so-called 401 provision of the Clean Water Act. The measure required companies to get certifications from states before building interstate pipelines approved by the federal government.
New York state used it to block pipelines that would send natural gas to New England, forcing the region at times to import liquefied natural gas from countries including Russia.
In 2017, Washington Governor Jay Inslee, a Democrat and 2020 candidate for president, denied a water permit for the Millennium Bulk Terminal, a coal export facility that would have expanded the ability of companies to send Western coal to Asian markets.
Inslee, who has centered his campaign on tackling climate change, slammed Trump’s latest tactic on energy.
“If Donald Trump is proposing it, it a) violates science and b) probably violates any sense of economic growth, because we know the largest economic growth is now coming from the development of new energy technologies,” Inslee said on the sidelines of a conference in New York.
The executive orders are part of the Trump administration’s policy of “energy dominance” to increase oil, gas and coal production, but forcing the EPA changes will take time. The official said the agency would have to follow normal procedures, including a comment period, and that projects already tied up in litigation “are obviously a much longer-term issue.”
One of the orders will direct the transportation secretary to propose allowing liquefied natural gas, a liquid form of the fuel, to be shipped in approved rail cars, a change that could increase its flow between terminals and markets.
The executive orders could also speed projects in Texas. Energy investors vying for permits to build oil export terminals along the Gulf Coast say they have worked closely with Trump officials in a bid to speed regulatory reviews of facilities capable of loading supertankers.
U.S. and state agencies overseeing permit applications have taken too long to approve projects, the investors said, adding they were worried their projects would miss the most profitable years of the U.S. crude export boom.
Four energy groups led by Trafigura AG, Carlyle Group, Enterprise Products Partners LP and Enbridge Inc have applied to build terminals in Texas.
Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici in Washington, Collin Eaton in Houston, and Jessica Resnick-Ault in New York; Editing by Peter Cooney and Jonathan Oatis
Oil Near Five-Month High as U.S. Gasoline Stockpiles Tumble
By Jessica Summers
— With assistance by James Thornhill, Heesu Lee, and Grant Smith
Crude held near a five-month high after U.S. government data showed the biggest decline in gasoline stockpiles since 2017, offsetting an increase in crude inventories.
Futures in New York rose as much as 0.9 percent on Wednesday, while gasoline futures jumped as much as 2.6 percent. Domestic fuel stockpiles tumbled more than analysts expected, while crude supplies expanded for a third straight week, according to the Energy Information Administration.
“It seems like this is more of a gasoline story,” said Rob Thummel, managing director at Tortoise, which handles $16 billion in energy-related assets. We’re “continuing to see healthy declines in gasoline inventories, which ultimately bodes well for crude, because there will be demand for crude as well.”
[U.S. gasoline inventories tumble, while crude stocks rise]
Oil has climbed more than 40 percent in New York this year as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries works to trim output and help balance global oil markets. Further supply threats due to fighting in Libya, as well as troubles in Venezuela, have also supported crude oil. Yet, gains remain limited due to fears of a slowing global economy. On Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund predicted this year would see the weakest growth since the financial crisis.
Fighting near the Libyan capital continued, forcing the United Nations to postpone an international peace conference to reconcile feuding factions and threatening to plunge the country back into civil war.
West Texas Intermediate for May delivery climbed 23 cents to $64.21 a barrel at 10:51 a.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices remain above the 200-day moving average after they breached that level earlier this month for the first time since October.
Gasoline futures for May delivery rose 2.3 percent to $2.0456 a gallon, the highest level since October.
Brent for June settlement advanced 44 cents to $71.05 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The global benchmark crude traded at a premium of $6.92 to WTI for the same month.
Meanwhile, the EIA report also showed U.S. crude stockpiles rose 7.03 million barrels last week to the highest level since November 2017. U.S. crude production held at a record 12.2 million barrels a day.