Trade attorney Lewis Leibowitz asked Steel Market Update if he could comment on the recent request for comments on the Buy American rules suggested by President Trump on private projects that require government approval. The U.S. Department of Commerce was charged with telling the President what could be done under current law. Here is the full article (including the expanded version of the headline) produced by Mr. Leibowitz:
Commerce Department Request for Public Comment on President’s Buy American Memorandum for Oil and Gas Pipelines
by Lewis Leibowitz
March 19, 2017
Last week, the Commerce Department asked for public comments regarding whether American oil and gas pipelines must be made with American-produced pipe and steel. As the Steel Market Update previously reported, Commerce must give President Trump an answer to his January memorandum directing the Commerce Department to tell him what could be done under current law to require pipe used in American oil and gas pipelines to be made in the United States.
The two most recently approved pipelines, Dakota Access and Keystone XL, will probably not be required to use American steel, because the pipes and other equipment were purchased long ago. Trump officials have admitted that it would be unfair in the extreme to require these companies to throw away pipe they already bought and buy new, more expensive pipe to finish their projects. There is no official pronouncement on these two new pipelines; but the President’s deputy Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders, said the Executive Order is “specific to new pipelines or those that are being repaired.” Because the Dakota and Keystone pipelines are neither new nor under repair, the Buy American requirement is not applicable, she said.
The President’s Buy America directive had a clear objective: to find a way to ensure that all American pipelines will be made with American-produced steel pipe, made from steel that was itself produced in America, “to the maximum extent possible” and “to the extent permitted by law.” If, as may well be the case, current law does not allow the Administration to require American pipe for pipelines built by private companies, it is not clear what the President’s next move might be.
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