Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Trump Now Controls the Clock

You have to struggle to find news this morning about Trump's pipeline signings. My local paper leads with a story about a rally I attended last night, which was impressive in that it was called in the afternoon and managed to fill the downtown park where these events usually take place.

After about five-minutes worth of searching the online corpus of The New York Times I found "Trump Revives Keystone Pipeline Rejected by Obama," by Peter Baker and Coral Davenport, which had briefly topped Google News yesterday.

The big takeaway from the article is that Trump's pipeline signings -- inviting TransCanada to resubmit its Keystone XL application and then instructing the Army Corps of Engineers to hurry up in permitting DAPL -- were pure theater. He has bigger fish to fry, like green-lighting mountain-top removal and rolling back CAFE standards:
Mr. Trump’s biggest target may be emission rules that would force the closing of hundreds of coal-fired power plants meant to be replaced by wind and solar power. But they are caught up in court battles that could run for months or years.
By contrast, he could more quickly soften Mr. Obama’s rules requiring tougher vehicle emission standards. Mr. Trump met on Tuesday with executives of major American automakers, who complained that before leaving office, Mr. Obama finalized an ambitious E.P.A. rule requiring that vehicles average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2026. Mr. Trump said he would help with burdensome regulations, but offered no specifics.
Mr. Trump could lift a moratorium instituted last year by Mr. Obama on new coal mining leases on public lands. As soon as next month, the Republican-led Congress may pass legislation undoing Mr. Obama’s regulations on the practice of mountaintop-removal coal mining and on leaks of planet-warming methane emissions from oil and gas drilling rigs.
In the meantime, the Keystone and Dakota pipelines provided Mr. Trump with visible ways to demonstrate action. As proposed by TransCanada, an Alberta firm, Keystone would carry 800,000 barrels a day from the Canadian oil sands to the Gulf Coast. Republicans and some Democrats said that it would create jobs and expand energy resources, while environmentalists said it would encourage a form of oil extraction that produces more gases that warm the planet than normal petroleum.
Studies showed that the pipeline would not have a momentous effect on jobs or the environment, but both sides made it into a symbolic test case. The State Department estimated that Keystone would support 42,000 temporary jobs for two years — about 3,900 of them in construction and the rest through indirect support, like food service — but only 35 permanent jobs. Similarly, the government concluded that Keystone’s carbon emissions would equal less than 1 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.
“Keystone has never been a significant issue from an environmental point of view in substance, only in symbol,” said David L. Goldwyn, an energy market analyst and a former head of the State Department’s energy bureau in the Obama administration.
But it was a symbol Mr. Trump found important enough to seize on early in his presidency. He signed an executive memorandum inviting TransCanada “to promptly resubmit its application to the Department of State for a presidential permit” for the pipeline, although the document did not guarantee approval.
The president told reporters he would “renegotiate some of the terms” — including possibly an insistence that the pipeline be built with American steel — but left little doubt that he wanted it approved. “We’ll see if we can get that pipeline built,” he said. “A lot of jobs.”
In a statement, TransCanada accepted his invitation to seek permission again. “We are currently preparing the application and intend to do so,” the company said, vowing that it would create jobs and still protect waterways and other sensitive resources.
The Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota became the focus of protests when the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe objected to its construction less than a mile from its reservation. The tribe and its allies won victory last month when the Army Corps of Engineers announced that it would look for alternative routes for the $3.7 billion pipeline instead of allowing it to be drilled under a dammed section of the Missouri River.
Mr. Trump signed an executive memorandum directing the Army “to review and approve in an expedited manner” the pipeline, “to the extent permitted by law and as warranted.” In his session with reporters, he added, “Again, subject to terms and conditions to be negotiated by us.”
Mr. Trump owned stock in Energy Transfer Partners, the company that is building the Dakota Access pipeline, according to his most recent filing with the Federal Election Commission. Last month, a spokesman for Mr. Trump said he sold all of his stock in June, but there is no way of verifying that sale, and Mr. Trump has not provided documentation of it.
Critics vowed to keep resisting the projects. Jan Hasselman, a lawyer for Earthjustice, an environmental law group representing the tribe, said Mr. Trump was discarding the findings of a review. “They’re just ignoring the problems that the government has already found,” he said, “and that is the kind of thing that courts need to review very closely.”
The signings coincided with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe asking the water protectors to pack up and go home. Poor timing.

Timing is the meta-narrative of Trump's first week in office. Trump controls the clock. He is controlling the flow of news. It is coming too fast. The media is playing hurry-up. This morning the headlines are dominated by Trump's executive order to build a border wall, as well as his promise of a federal investigation of voter fraud. Tomorrow it will be something else.

The #ResistTrumpTuesdays protests were a whisper following the adulation over "a revolutionary movement in the making" of the women's march.

If Trump continues to wrong-foot his opponents, Robert Miller's comments from yesterday will no doubt be proven true: "Maybe Donald's purpose in life is to teach liberals that the CIA is really swell, and that coups by intelligence agencies are really the cat's meow."

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