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Trump won't require Keystone XL pipeline to use American steel after all

 (Shawn Thew/ European Pressphoto Agency)
(Shawn Thew/ European Pressphoto Agency)

A few weeks ago, when President Trump signed a directive clearing several hurdles out of the way of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, the White House touted a new requirement -- that the pipeline be made with American-produced steel.

Never mind.

The requirement to use domestic steel posed a potential conflict between the administration's populist agenda and it's pro-business stance. Apparently, business won.

Friday, a White House spokeswoman said Keystone would be exempt from the buy-America requirement because the pipeline was already partially underway.

"The way that executive order is written," said White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, "it’s specific to new pipelines or those that are being repaired.

"Since this one is already currently under construction, the steel is already literally sitting there; it would be hard to go back," Sanders told reporters traveling with Trump on Air Force One en route to Florida.

That's not the way Trump described the requirement in his public statements. In a speech a week ago at the CPAC conference of conservative activists, the president said he had personally come up with the buy-America idea while signing off on the Keystone project.

"We have authorized the construction ... of the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines," he said.

"This took place while I was getting ready to sign," he continued. "I said, 'who makes the pipes for the pipeline?'

"'Well, sir, it comes from all over the world, isn't that wonderful?'

"I said, 'Nope, it comes from the United States, or we're not building one.' American steel. If they want a pipeline in the United States, they're going to use pipe that's made in the United States."

About half the steel used to build the pipeline is to come from a plant in Arkansas, according to the pipeline builder, TransCanada. The rest will be imported.

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