By RAKAN KARIMANAssociated PressIn a sweeping new move, President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday to lift restrictions on construction of oil refineries and pipelines in his hometown of Houston, which are already struggling to stay afloat amid the devastating floods.
The order reverses a decades-old order from the Obama administration that has restricted new construction of major oil and gas facilities, including the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.
“As the new administration takes office, we will reverse the last two decades of bad decisions,” Trump said in the executive order.
“We are taking a major step forward to restore our country’s energy infrastructure, which has been crippled by a lack of investment, regulations, and oversight.”
The order, which is aimed at creating more jobs, was also accompanied by a memorandum of understanding between the White House and the state of Texas that directs the federal government to expedite permits for the construction of a new oil refinery.
The memorandum of understand was signed by Secretary of Energy Spencer Abrahams, who was appointed by Trump to head up the Energy Department after the resignation of former President Joe Biden.
It is expected to take effect in 2018.
“With this memorandum of agreement, we are creating an orderly process that will expedite the permitting process for the Keystone pipeline,” Abrahams said in a statement.
“This is an important step to ensure that the Keystone project is able to move forward, even as we address many other issues, including protecting our public health and our environment.”
President Donald Trump has long had a cozy relationship with oil refiners in Texas, even though the state has not had a major oil spill in more than a decade.
That was evident during the presidential campaign when he promised to help refiners get new facilities built, and his administration has repeatedly said it will continue to do so.
“The Trump administration is taking action to support Texas refiners,” said Josh Meyer, president of the Texas Association of Oil Refiners.
“Texas refiners are facing tough times and are working tirelessly to support their families and communities.
The Trump administration’s action to expeditiously permit Keystone Pipeline construction will support their efforts and help ensure they have the resources they need to continue to thrive.”
The Houston Chronicle reports that Texas’ oil production fell for a fourth straight month in March.
The state has been hit by a severe drought that has left wells empty.
The Houston Oil and Gas Association said Friday that the Texas Oil & Gas Commission will make a decision by the end of the week on whether to grant the state’s request to delay the Keystone Pipeline permit for another three months.
It was not immediately clear whether the permit will be extended.