Explainer: The cancellation of the Keystone XL Pipeline project

How we got to this point, why the pipeline was cancelled, and why some Canadian politicians are upset about it

Piping used on the Keystone XL pipeline in Nebraska, U.S. (Flickr/shannonpatrick17)

Cancelling the Keystone XL Pipeline project was one of U.S. President Joe Biden’s campaign promises.

The pipeline, initially proposed in 2008 by TC Energy Corp, formerly known as TransCanada Corp and ConocoPhillips, was intended to span over 2,700 kilometres between Alberta and Nebraska to deliver 800,000 barrels of oil a day to the U.S.

However, to accomplish his plan to shift the U.S. over to clean energy and tackle climate change, Biden revoked the presidential permit for the estimated $8 billion pipeline during his first day in office on Jan. 20.

Back in 2017, former U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order that approved the pipeline. Still, in 2018, a U.S. federal judge blocked the project’s construction to allow more time for studying the environmental impacts the pipeline could bring.

Approximately four months later, in 2019, Trump issued a new presidential permit in a desperate effort to get the project moving again.

Despite opposition from many environmental groups and calls from Indigenous leaders, construction began in April 2020 following Alberta’s investment of $1.5 billion and receiving a $6 billion loan guarantee for 2021.

“While we welcome the President’s commitments to fight climate change, we are disappointed but acknowledge the President’s decision to fulfill his election campaign promise on Keystone XL,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement released on Jan. 20.

Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., Kirsten Hillman, told CBC that while the decision is especially disappointing to those working in Canada’s oil industry, the country needs to “focus on moving forward with the [Biden] administration.”

Indigenous Climate Action, an organization based in Alberta that supports Indigenous peoples’ voices in climate change discourse, released a statement on Jan. 20.

“This is a win for Mother Earth, but it’s also a win for Indigenous Peoples who have been campaigning against pipelines like KXL for decades. It must not be forgotten that victories like this wouldn’t be possible without the leadership of Indigenous Peoples who consistently put ourselves on the line to fight back against the extractive industry,” reads the statement.

Alberta’s premier Jason Kenney was vocal about opposing Biden’s decision, and said on Twitter that killing the project without giving Canada a chance to communicate with the new administration is “not how you treat a friend and ally.”

Kenney, among other critics, said he fears for the blow this will deliver to jobs, the oil industry, and Canada’s economy.

Ontario’s premier Doug Ford, said that Trudeau should stand up to “a bully” like Biden during a call on Jan. 21 with other premiers and the Prime Minister, reported Global News.

Kenney suggested that Canada should fire back at the Biden administration with economic and trade sanctions if they don’t agree to have further discussion about the pipeline.

TC Energy put out a statement before Biden officially revoked the pipeline’s permit that said doing so would lead to thousands of union-workers being laid off.

In Trudeau’s statement, he said that workers in Alberta and Saskatchewan will always have the federal government’s support.

A news release by The Guardian writes that Biden’s decision may encourage Trudeau to reconsider policy choices, as he campaigned on investing into renewable energy and tackling climate change, but then invested billions into the TransMountain pipeline expansion project.

Tags: explainer, climate, politics, pipeline, government