Monday, June 26, 2017

Brand new yuge profit centers

Building the infrastructure of America has always been a profit making business, but with its limitations and regulations to insure it served the public need and provided for the commonwealth. Builder Donny has plans to provide huge amounts of public money to his friends and known associates for infrastructure projects without as many of those pesky rules and regulations as he can get away with.
Since that day, the president has tapped various friends and supporters to help shape his infrastructure agenda, including CEOs who have a financial interest in the regulatory relief Trump is promising and implementing. These include Stephen Schwarzman, who heads the New York-based Blackstone equity firm, which has multi-billion-dollar investments in infrastructure nationwide. They also include lesser known figures, such as Veresen CEO Don Althoff, whose Canadian company was unable to get permits during the Obama era to build a liquified natural gas export terminal in Oregon.

Trump’s appointments to regulatory agencies have delivered a boost to these allies, and also to others, such as Alan S. Armstrong, CEO of Williams, an Oklahoma-based gas pipeline company. Trump has made clear he wants the federal government to clear a path for new energy projects.

“No longer can we allow these rules and regulations to tie down our economy, chain up our prosperity, and sap our great American spirit,” Trump said in a June 9 speech. “That is why we will lift these restrictions and unleash the full potential of the United States of America.”

As president, Trump can operate numerous levers of regulatory relief. His appointments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department are reversing decisions of the Obama administration that tripped up energy and water projects.

At one point, Trump was considering Hamm — a major campaign donor and pioneer in extracting oil from shale rock in North Dakota — to serve as his energy secretary. When Hamm backed out, Trump appointed former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who had to resign from the board of Energy Transfer Partners — the company developing the Dakota Access pipeline — to take the Energy Department job.

EPA, Interior and Energy all have influence over infrastructure, but possibly the most influential agency is one that many Americans have never heard of — the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

FERC has licensing authority over transmission lines, hydro-power projects and cross-state gas and oil pipelines. Dozens of these private projects are in the works, raising concerns about use of eminent domain to build them.

For years, energy industry CEOs have complained about FERC’s slow pace, partly caused by multiple public hearings and comment periods, so affected landowners can express their concerns. That pace is expected to change when the Senate confirms Trump’s two nominees to FERC, which will give the commission a quorum again. They are Neil Chatterjee, a senior energy adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Robert Powelson, a member of the Public Utility Commission in Pennsylvania, a state friendly to the oil and gas industry.

These appointments, and Trump’s public statements, have emboldened energy company CEOs, some of whom have publicly urged the president to intervene on their behalf.

One of these is Armstrong, the CEO of Williams, one of the nation’s largest developers of natural gas pipelines. Last year, Williams suffered a setback when New York regulators, pressured by the state’s anti-fracking activists, declined to act on a needed water quality permit for the company’s Constitution Pipeline. The decision effectively stymied the 125-mile pipeline, which would ship natural gas from northeast Pennsylvania to lucrative markets in New York.

In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Williams CEO Armstrong said he has been urging the Trump administration to override the New York decision by assuming permitting authority for the project, which he says the Army Corps of Engineers could do on its own. “The issue has been purely political,” he said. “That’s exactly when, for interstate commerce, the federal government should use their authority.”
So apparently Republicans are quite comfortable with oppressive Federal authority when it suits their purpose. When it is used to insure all parties are treated fairly and protect the little guy then it must be stopped. Can't let little people stand in the way of progress and profit.


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