President Donald Trump on March 28 doubled down on his commitment to require pipeline builders and operators to use domestically produced steel despite industry concerns.
"We will transport American energy through American pipelines made with American steel," Trump said before signing an executive order centered on rolling back Obama administration environmental regulations. "If you're going to build pipelines in this country, you're going to buy your steel and you're going to have it fabricated here. ... We believe in those really magnificent words: Made in the USA."
Trump issued the domestic-steel memorandum in January, along with executive actions to advance the Keystone XL pipeline and Dakota Access pipeline.
He said March 28 that the memorandum came about somewhat incidentally in the course of laying out other pipeline orders. After what he described as a casual exchange about the origin of pipeline steel, "we added a little clause — it didn't take much," he said.
Some industry observers and participants have expressed concerns about the vagueness of the memorandum and the broad nature of the request for comment. Others have raised the issue of whether the U.S. has the appropriate manufacturing capabilities to produce the specific material and pipe that oil and gas transporters need.
"Our industry has found a few challenges with obtaining some pipeline materials and equipment that are American made," American Gas Association spokesman Jake Rubin said in a March 28 email. "Safety is the top priority for America's natural gas utilities. Our customers are our family, friends and neighbors and they rely on us to deliver natural gas safely and reliably. Our operations and ongoing maintenance of the natural gas delivery system can be severely impacted if the required materials are not readily available."
In the January memo, Trump directed the U.S. Department of Commerce to devise a plan to ensure that all new, retrofitted, repaired and expanded pipelines in the U.S. use domestically produced iron and steel "to the maximum extent possible and to the extent permitted by law." The department on March 16 issued a request for comment to move forward on that program.