Not enough U.S. steel, Trump told

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - BUSINESS & FARM -

JENNIFER A. DLOUHY

Donald Trump’s al­lies in the oil in­dus­try are warn­ing the pres­i­dent that his bid to pro­mote U.S. steel-mak­ers could back­fire against their ef­forts to achieve his goal of “Amer­i­can en­ergy dom­i­nance.”

The in­tense lob­by­ing ef­fort comes as the Com­merce Depart­ment faces a Sun­day dead­line to give the pres­i­dent a plan to re­quire that oil and gas pipe­lines use Amer­i­can-made steel, an idea Trump em­braced in the ini­tial days of his pres­i­dency. While the U.S. has im­posed “Buy Amer­i­can” rules on gov­ern­ment pur­chases for decades, it would be un­prece­dented to force those obli­ga­tions on pri­vately funded, com­mer­cial pro­jects.

The blue­print from Com­merce Secretary Wil­bur Ross will set the stage for fur­ther protests from the oil in­dus­try, the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce and de­vel­op­ers, in­clud­ing The Wil­liams Com­pa­nies Inc. and En­ergy Trans­fer Part­ners.

“A core fea­ture of the U.S. free en­ter­prise sys­tem” is that “pri­vate busi­nesses should be free to make pur­chas­ing de­ci­sions on their own,” the Cham­ber of Com­merce, the biggest­spend­ing busi­ness lobby in Wash­ing­ton, said in its com­ments to Ross.

The ef­fort il­lus­trates how Trump’s “Amer­ica-first” agenda pits his al­lies against one an­other and un­der­scores the chal­lenges of ful­fill­ing the pres­i­dent’s pro­tec­tion­ist stance.

Trump kicked off the pipe­line-fo­cused ef­fort dur­ing his fourth day in of­fice, by is­su­ing a pres­i­den­tial mem­o­ran­dum com­pelling the Com­merce Depart­ment to de­ter­mine how to re­quire Amer­i­can ma­te­rial in all retro­fit­ted, re­paired or ex­panded U.S. pipe­lines “to the ex­tent per­mit­ted by law.” Un­der Trump’s di­rec­tive, iron and steel only qual­i­fies as Amer­i­can-made if it is fully pro­duced in the United States, from its ini­tial melt­ing to the later ap­pli­ca­tion of coat­ings. The memo was hastily pro­duced, not sub­ject to lengthy ad­min­is­tra­tion de­bate or scru­tiny.

Sep­a­rately, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether for­eign steel threat­ens U.S. na­tional se­cu­rity — an in­quiry that could lead to tar­iffs or quo­tas on those im­ports.

While pipe­line de­vel­op­ers have praised Trump’s ap­proval of pro­jects that stalled un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, in­clud­ing Tran­sCanada Corp.’s Key­stone XL and En­ergy Trans­fer’s Dakota Ac­cess, they warn Amer­ica-made re­quire­ments could un­der­cut that progress. More than three quar­ters of pipe used in oil and gas pro­jects be­gins as im­ported steel, ac­cord­ing to one in­dus­try study.

“Fewer new pipe­line pro­jects would run counter to the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s goal of ex­pand­ing U.S. en­ergy pro­duc­tion and in­fra­struc­ture to sup­port the econ­omy, job growth and na­tional se­cu­rity,” said a coali­tion of oil in­dus­try trade groups, in­clud­ing the Amer­i­can Petroleum In­sti­tute and the Amer­i­can Gas As­so­ci­a­tion. Re­ly­ing solely on U.S. pro­duced pipe­line-qual­ity steel and com­po­nents “could lead to long con­struc­tion de­lays and higher costs, po­ten­tially can­cel­ing planned pipe­line pro­jects or block­ing new pipe­line pro­jects.”

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