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Effort to Remove Obstacle for Cross-Border Pipelines Moves Forward

The measure would leave authority over these projects in the hands of federal agencies.


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A construction site for a pipeline that recently began moving natural gas from West Texas to Mexico.
Travis Bubenik/Houston Public Media
A construction site for a pipeline that recently began moving natural gas from West Texas to Mexico.

A bill moving forward in Congress would remove one of the few barriers to cross-border pipelines.

The measure, known as the “Promoting Cross-Border Energy Infrastructure Act”, would strip the executive branch of its decision-making power over these projects.

Remember how President Obama rejected the Keystone XL Pipeline, and then President Trump approved it?

They both had that power because of "presidential permits", which the State Department approves or denies for various border projects.

This bill would get rid of those permits for pipelines and leave the authority with federal agencies.

“It takes politics out of the decision-making, and that is bad news for environmentalists,” says Jorge Piñon, head of the Latin American and Caribbean Energy Program at the University of Texas.

If you're an energy company, you don't want your project subject to political whims, so this bill would be great. But since pipeline are driven by markets, political pressure is almost the only tool opponents have, particularly when it comes to pipelines headed south.

“There has never been any opposition from the U.S. government to build natural gas pipelines to Mexico,” Piñon explains.

Experts say while the bill would remove an obstacle to cross-border pipelines, it wouldn't necessarily lead to more of them – the number of projects is driven by demand.

The bill is backed by Houston Democratic Rep. Gene Green and Oklahoma Republican Markwayne Mullin. It recently passed out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.