Biden blocks cross-border Keystone XL pipeline, ‘disappointing’ Canadian PM Justin Trudeau

‘Leaving the Keystone XL pipeline permit in place would not be consistent with my Administration’s economic and climate imperatives,’ read President Biden’s executive order

Louise Boyle
Senior Climate Correspondent in New York
Thursday 21 January 2021 19:02 GMT

Related video: Trump signs executive order to advance oil pipelines

Joe Biden cancelled the permit for the $9 billion Keystone XL Pipeline as one of his first acts as president, beginning the unwinding of Donald Trump’s legacy of climate and environmental rollbacks.

“The Permit is hereby revoked,” President Biden’s executive order reads. “Leaving the Keystone XL pipeline permit in place would not be consistent with my Administration’s economic and climate imperatives.”

Construction on the long-disputed pipeline ground to a halt on Wednesday. The 1,700-mile (2,735-km) pipeline was planned to carry around 800,000 barrels of oil each day from the province of Alberta in Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast, passing through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma.

Mr Biden had opposed Mr Trump’s decision in 2017 to grant a permit for Keystone XL, and pledged to cancel the cross-border project if he became president.

However Mr Biden’s turnaround has not gone down entirely well north of the border. Some Canadian officials asked for more time to make a case for the project while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appeared less than happy.   

Mr Trudeau wrote: “While we welcome the President's commitment to fight climate change, we are disappointed but acknowledge the President’s decision to fulfill his election campaign promise on Keystone XL.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Wednesday that the president’s first call with a foreign leader would be with his Canadian counterpart.

Ms Psaki said the subject of the call will be relations between the US and Canada as well as the status of the Keystone XL line.

However a source told Reuters that Mr Biden’s block of the pipeline may be a blessing in disguise for Mr Trudeau, despite his public stance. “At first glance this is bad news ... but at least now the matter is settled and won’t be souring bilateral relations for months to come,” a diplomatic source from a major allied country said. “Canada hasn’t had to expend any serious political capital with the Biden administration on the pipeline and can now focus on the many other areas where Trudeau feels the two nations should cooperate,” the source added.

Mr Biden’s day one sweep of executive orders included rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, aimed at reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, and banning new oil and gas drilling leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He also ordered a review of more than 100 policies including on vehicle fuel economy standards and limiting pollution from the fossil fuel sector.

The Keystone XL has been fought by environmental groups and Indigenous communities who celebrated President Biden’s executive order.  

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, who have for years fought the Dakota Access Pipeline which runs through their lands, tweeted on Thursday: “Huge victory yesterday for Rosebud Sioux Tribe, the Aaniiih Nation and the Assiniboine Tribe. Thank you@POTUS@JoeBidenfor stopping KXL. Now let’s keep it going, next on the list: Dakota Access Pipeline. #NoDAPL”

The pipeline was rejected twice under the Obama administration, remaining blocked for eight years, as the project was at odds with efforts to tackle the climate crisis. President Trump issued permits for the project soon after entering the White House. 

TC Energy Corp said it would achieve net-zero emissions by 2023 when it enters service. The company also pledged to use only renewable energy sources by 2030 in a bid to win support of the Biden administration. 

Keystone XL President Richard Prior said over 1,000 jobs, the majority unionized, will be eliminated in the coming weeks. “We will begin a safe and orderly shut-down of construction,” he said.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said on Twitter on Sunday he was “deeply concerned” that cancellation of the pipeline would eliminate jobs, weaken US-Canada relations and undermine American national security by making the US more dependent on OPEC oil imports.

Canada also defended the project as inherently different to the one rejected by Mr Obama in 2015. 

The country’s US ambassador, Kirsten Hillman, said: “Not only has the project itself changed significantly since it was first proposed, but Canada’s oilsands production has also changed significantly.  

“Per-barrel oilsands GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions have dropped 31 per cent since 2000, and innovation will continue to drive progress.”

She added that the project fit with both countries’ environmental plans. “There is no better partner for the U.S. on climate action than Canada as we work together for green transition,” she added.

The AP contributed to this report

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