President Donald Trump’s administration on Friday unveiled a new set of rules for TransCanada Corp. and the nation’s largest pipeline operator to ease the environmental damage of a project that is being touted as a boon for the United States and a way to boost domestic energy production.
The rules, announced by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, do not address the most controversial aspect of the project: the Dakota Access pipeline that runs under Lake Oahe, a tributary of the Missouri River.
But they do ease restrictions on the company’s drilling operations, a key component of the TransCanada deal that is now under review by a federal court.
Zinke said the new rules would “help ensure that we can complete the Dakota and Keystone XL projects with the appropriate level of environmental safeguards and environmental compliance.”
Trump has made the pipeline a central part of his plan to revive the U.S. energy industry.
He has touted the pipeline as a way for U.N. officials to bypass the Obama administration’s climate accord and to bring domestic energy supplies to market, even as he has criticized the project as environmentally damaging and a drain on federal coffers.
TransCanada has been working to drill a new section of the pipeline in North Dakota’s Bakken shale, the region of oil and gas deposits that includes the Standing Rock Sioux reservation and is home to a large chunk of the reservation.
Trump has repeatedly accused the company of being behind the pipeline’s construction.
Trump’s new pipeline rules, which were unveiled Friday, would impose a 20 percent penalty on companies that drill more than a certain number of wells in North and South Dakota and Montana.
The rule would also allow companies to drill less than two wells in a particular spot, a change that would give the new oil-and-gas operators more time to drill.
TransCanadians would still be able to use existing oil wells on the pipeline, although those wells would have to be certified by the federal government.
The new rules also would require oil- and gas companies to notify the government when drilling wells in the state are less than 2,000 feet.
TransCanada said it plans to begin drilling in two areas next year, including in the western part of the state.
Zilke, who took over as Interior secretary in January, said the regulations will also ease restrictions placed on drilling operations that are required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires federal agencies to protect the environment.
NEPA allows the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve pipeline projects under certain conditions.
Trump signed the NEPA waivers in January as part of a broader effort to boost U.R.T.E. projects, which include the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines.
He called the Keystone pipeline a “victory” in a tweet Friday.
The president’s administration has been reviewing whether the projects are in the public interest and has proposed many of the rules it has proposed since taking office.
But it is unclear how much time the Trump Administration has allotted for those rules.
Zimmer, a former oil industry executive, has said the pipeline will help the U