President Donald Trump announced Friday he has formally approved a Canadian firm’s application to construct the Keystone XL pipeline, a project long blocked by his predecessor and demanded by Republican lawmakers.
“It’s a great day for American jobs, a historic day for North America and energy independence,” Trump said at his desk in the Oval Office. “This announcement is part of a new era of American energy policy that will lower costs for American families, and very significantly reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”
With his typical bravado, the president said the pipeline will be built with the “greatest technology known to man or woman.” He said it will create “thousands” of jobs in the United States, and would be a “safer” way to move energy products than other means.
“The fact is that this $8 billion investment in American energy was delayed for so long. It demonstrates how our government has too often failed its citizens and companies over the past long period of time,” he added. “Today, we begin to make things right and to do things right.”
His comments came during a National Economic Council meeting in the Oval Office.
“This is a significant milestone for the Keystone XL project,” Russ Girling, president of TransCanada, the pipeline builder, said in a blog post. “We greatly appreciate President Trump’s administration for reviewing and approving this important initiative and we look forward to working with them as we continue to invest in and strengthen North America’s energy infrastructure.”
Trump told Girling, standing to his right by the Resolute Desk, that the firm’s lobbyists did not do “a damn thing” in helping TransCanada secure the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. He urged the energy executive to get his firm’s money back from those lobbyists.
And the president contended that without himself as president, the project would never have been approved.
In late January, Trump signed an executive order greenlighting TransCanada’s application to build the pipeline after the Obama administration had blocked it for years. He did so, however, with a major caveat, saying the pipeline deal was “subject to terms and conditions that will be negotiated by us.”
To be sure, Trump’s decision is a win for Republicans, like House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, who has hailed Trump’s approval of the project. On the other hand, Democrats were handed a major loss after warning for years that the project will harm the environment.
Under former President Barack Obama, the State Department conducted an assessment that found the $8 billion project would not lower gas prices for U.S. consumers as its proponents claimed.
Obama told reporters in November 2015 that he concluded the plan was “neither the silver bullet” for the U.S. economy nor a surefire cause of “climate disaster” as those on either side of the issue claimed.
On Tuesday night, Trump boasted during a major GOP fundraising event that TransCanada in late February dropped a lawsuit seeking more than $10 billion from the U.S. government only because he threatened to take back his approval of the project.
“I said, ‘Wait a minute. I’m approving the pipeline and they’re suing us for $14 billion and I’ve already approved it, right?’” Trump said, according to a pool report of what was an otherwise closed-to-the-media event.
The president said he deployed Gary Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs executive who now is now Trump’s chief economic adviser, to relay a message to the Canadian firm.
“‘Go back to them and tell them, if they don’t drop the suit immediately, we are going to terminate the deal,’” Trump said he instructed Cohn. “Being president gives you great power.”
A TransCanada spokesman on Wednesday did not directly respond to Trump’s version of how the court suit was dropped, when asked about the remarks. Notably, the company announced Friday morning that Girling would not be available for media interviews that day.