US PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP’S administration has granted a presidential permit to the US$8bn Keystone XL pipeline, which will take crude from Canada’s oilsands to US Gulf Coast refineries.
The pipeline was first proposed in 2008, but after extensive consultation, former president Barack Obama denied TransCanada permission to build the 1,897 km pipeline in 2015, concluding that it would “not serve the national interest”. He noted at the time, among other things, that the US already overproduces oil and said that the pipeline would damage efforts to tackle climate change and reduce fossil fuel dependence.
However, on 24 March, Trump announced that TransCanada would receive a presidential permit. The permit was issued by the US Department of State, which reviewed TransCanada’s application and determined that the pipeline is in the national interest. Under secretary of state for political affairs Thomas Shannon considered foreign policy, energy security, environmental, cultural, and economic impacts, and compliance with law and policy, before signing the permit.
The permit grants permission to TransCanada to “construct, connect, operate, and maintain pipeline facilities at the US-Canadian border in Phillips County, Montana for the importation of crude oil.” A White House statement says that the construction of Keystone XL will support more than 42,000 jobs for up to two years, and will contribute US$3.4bn to the US economy. It will transport up to 830,000 bbl/d of crude. Individual states, whose land the pipeline will pass through, must still approve the project, however.
Writing on Twitter, Trump said he was “pleased to announce the official approval” and added: “It is a great day for American jobs and a historic moment for North American energy independence.”
TransCanada welcomed the announcement and said that Keystone XL is an important part of its US growth portfolio. It will drop a US$15bn compensation lawsuit it launched in 2016 against the US after the Obama administration refused permission for the pipeline.
“This is a significant milestone for the Keystone XL project,” said TransCanada CEO Russ Girling. “We greatly appreciate President Trump's administration for reviewing and approving this important initiative and we look forward to working with them as we continue to invest in and strengthen North America's energy infrastructure.”
Jack Gerard, CEO of the American Petroleum Institute (API) said that Keystone XL is a “critical infrastructure project” which will create jobs, grow the economy and make the US more energy secure.
“Approval of this project is an important step to recognising the benefits that come from US energy infrastructure. According to a recent study, private investment in our nation’s energy infrastructure is a US$1trn proposition that could create over 1m new jobs for America’s safest, most highly trained and productive workers. Moving forward, we strongly urge the individual states, which stand to benefit from the Keystone XL pipeline, to approve this important project.”
As might be expected, environmental and Native American groups have vowed to fight on against Keystone XL. Greenpeace has launched a campaign against US banks to try to persuade them not to approve loans or funding for the pipeline. May Boeve, the executive director of climate group 350.org, which campaigns to keep fossil fuels in the ground and invest in renewables, called the move “a dangerous, expensive mistake”. 350.org said that it would support protests and resistance along the route.
Group campaigner Clayton Thomas-Muller added: “While US politics have changed in the past few months, some things haven’t: Keystone XL is still a climate disaster, it is still opposed by indigenous peoples from Alberta to Nebraska to the Gulf of Mexico, and it still will be fought tooth and nail. Any politician siding with the fossil fuel industry on Keystone, be they named Trudeau or Trump, is in for one hell of a fight.”
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