Congressman Rick Nolan

Representing the 8th District of Minnesota
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Duluth News Tribune: Our view: Trump can make good on pipeline pledge

Apr 5, 2017
In The News

That rousing cheer from Northeastern Minnesota during President Donald Trump's first address to Congress came when he announced, "We have cleared the way for the construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines, thereby creating tens of thousands of jobs. And I've issued a new directive that new American pipelines be made with American steel."

That deep sigh of disappointment from Northeastern Minnesota came a couple days later when the White House clarified that the president's directive actually wouldn't apply to Keystone — or, we can assume from the explanation, to the Dakota Access project, either.

"The executive order is ... specific to new pipelines or those that are being repaired. And since (the Keystone project) is already currently under construction, the steel is already literally sitting there, it would be hard to go back," White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters aboard Air Force One, according to ABC News and other sources. "But I know that everything moving forward would fall under that executive order."

At the risk of defending Trump, the explanation had merit. Requiring a costly swapout of construction materials mid-project would hardly be business-friendly.

Also, Trump's words, technically, were accurate. Each of his two sentences by themselves was correct.

Taken together, of course, they left an erroneous impression, whether intended or not. We can hope it wasn't intended. And we can demand our president start having clearer, more-complete understandings of what's what before making bold announcements. This wasn't just some campaign pledge or a bizarre late-night tweet, as much as those also should be truthful when coming from our nation's highest office. This announcement was made during a State of the Union-like address to Congress. Americans have to be able to rely on such words.

Americans now can hold Trump to his pledge to build "new American pipelines ... with American steel." Every time from now on. That certainly would be worth cheering here, a region long reliant on mining iron ore, the mineral at the heart of the steel in our cars, kitchen appliances, pipelines and more. Requiring American-made steel in American projects promises a boon for our region.

Unfortunately, turning Trump's stated wish into reality may prove difficult. His directive requires the use of U.S. steel "to the maximum extent possible and to the extent permitted by law." The requirement may not be able to be applied at all to privately funded projects, experts have opined. And America's trade obligations under the World Trade Organization's Government Procurement Agreement may not jibe, prohibiting such preferred treatment, as the Boston Globe reported.

Here's hoping Trump and his administration find a way, even if others who've made similar use-American-steel pledges in the past — including U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan of Minnesota — haven't quite been able to pull it off yet.

The directive is there. The directive is clear. And in the mining country of Northeastern Minnesota, it's worth cheering.