President Donald Trump’s executive order on Aug. 15 to streamline the permitting process for infrastructure projects was hailed in the oil and gas industry before it was even signed.
“We applaud [the president’s] efforts, the efforts on the part of the administration to create jobs and to help continue the [energy] renaissance,” Jack Gerard, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, told reporters during a conference call prior to the White House announcement. “There’s over $1 trillion expected to be invested just in building energy infrastructure—that’s separate and apart from building highways, bridges, etc. When you combine that private capital investment, coupled with some public-private partnerships, you begin to see what a big difference this can make.”
Trump said that the approval process would boil down to a two-year time frame on major infrastructure projects during which all permitting must be completed. A single federal decision protocol would be established which the president said would give one agency leadership for a particular project.
In his announcement at Trump Tower in New York, which was overshadowed by his remarks about the weekend’s events in Charlottesville, Va., the president said the current process involves numerous federal agencies and “one agency alone can stall a project many years.”
“Not only does this cost our economy billions of dollars,” he said, “but it also denies our citizens the safe and modern infrastructure they deserve. This overregulated permitting process is a massive, self-inflicted wound on our country. It’s disgraceful.”
In response to a reporter’s question, Trump appeared unconcerned that infrastructure legislation would have difficulty gaining congressional approval.
“Infrastructure is something that I think we will have bipartisan support on,” he said. “I actually think Democrats will go along with infrastructure.”
Pipeline construction alone is a major job creator, Sean McGarvey, president of North America’s Building Trades Unions, told reporters earlier in the day. McGarvey cited the Institute for Construction Economic Research’s recently released study pointing to an average of 69,500 construction jobs per year that are generated by pipeline construction.
“And we’re talking about real middle-class jobs,” he said. “We’re talking about average weekly earnings of almost $1,200 a week to put folks and keep folks squarely in the middle class.”
Union wages alone contributed about $2.3 billion a year to the U.S. economy on average between 2006 and 2015, even though the country struggled through the Great Recession during that time.
McGarvey said the president’s infrastructure initiative could dramatically expand the number of workers and the economic impact.
Gerard noted that 10.3 million Americans are employed in the U.S. oil and gas industry that leads the world in the production and refining of hydrocarbons.
“It’s critical that we have this infrastructure that allows us to tie the product to the consumer, the American people,” he said. “Pipelines are essential, and as 99.99% of our product is moved through pipelines safely, we have a good track record.”