On April 10, 2019, President Trump issued an Executive Order revising the process for developing and issuing Presidential permits covering the construction, connection and operation of oil and gas pipelines, bridges and other infrastructure crossing U.S. borders into neighboring countries. The President took this action in response to what his administration has viewed as unnecessary process delays in granting permits for trans-national pipelines such as the Keystone XL Pipeline.
The new Executive Order transfers the authority for granting Presidential permits for such facilities from the State Department to the President, revoking the process laid out in a George W. Bush-era Executive Order, E.O. 13,337 (April 30, 2004). The State Department will receive and process all such permit applications, but will be limited to an advisory role only. It must process all such applications within 60 days, and will no longer be able to consult directly with other interested federal agencies. (Instead, it may only recommend that the office of the President seek any such consultations.) The State Department will be able to consult directly with interested state, tribal or local governments, but only within a truncated 30-day timeframe.
The Executive Order is an attempt to shorten and circumvent the lengthy, considered State Department process for granting or denying Presidential permits, which delayed and ultimately derailed the Keystone XL Pipeline under President Obama. Keystone XL's developers applied for a Presidential permit to cross the border into Canada in 2008. It took three years for the State Department, in consultation with the EPA, to issue an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the permitting decision, as required for all major federal actions by the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). Even then, deliberations continued, and no final decision was made until November 2015, when Secretary of State Kerry determined that issuing a permit for the pipeline was not in the public interest. Once in office, in March 2017, President Trump attempted to issue the permit, but in November 2018 was blocked in doing so by a federal judge who ruled that he had improperly relied on an outdated EIS to do so.
Rather than wait for the appeals process to run its course, President Trump has since "revoked" that invalidated permit, and issued a new permit allowing Keystone XL to cross the border into Canada at another location. Both the new permit, and this new Executive Order, will certainly be subject to immediate court challenge.