Donald Trump’s transition team is looking for new ideas on energy infrastructure in the hope that contentious pipeline projects like Keystone XL and Dakota Access can move forward quickly when he takes over next year, according to a former President George W. Bush administration official who is close to the Trump team.
“I think you will see a lot of change after Jan. 20,” said Brigham McCown, Bush’s former head of the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which enforces pipeline safety. “I think you will see Keystone XL back on the map. I think if Dakota Access is still pending, it is going to get wrapped up real quickly.”
One area of focus for Trump’s team is making sure McCown’s old federal agency has more of a say in pipeline decisions, which could give a boost to the stalled projects.
“They are interested in knowing why the pipeline safety agency is never heard from in the Obama administration,” McCown said. “If you think about it, the people who know pipelines the best were nowhere to be seen when we were talking about Keystone XL. They’re nowhere to be seen right now.”
The Keystone XL pipeline would have connected the tar sands oil fields of Alberta, Canada, to U.S. oil refiners on the Gulf Coast. President Obama rejected the pipeline’s approval a year ago after seven years of reviews by the State Department, because of the Paris climate change agreement negotiations that were to begin a month later.
The pipeline company TransCanada is currently suing the administration in federal court for denying the project’s approval, while seeking arbitration under the North American Free Trade Agreement. A company spokesman said Wednesday that the Canadian firm plans to resubmit its application once Trump enters the Oval Office next year.
McCown said political agencies like the Justice Department have gotten ahead of the agencies that actually know something about pipeline development and safety, like his former agency and others. “The entity that knows the most about pipeline safety has been muzzled because they, frankly, don’t want them out there with their pro-safety message, which would say, ‘pipelines are the way to go,'” he explained in an interview with the Washington Examiner. McCown said pipelines are safer than rail, which is the current method being used to move oil from North Dakota to the East Coast.