US President-elect Joe Biden is planning to cancel the permit for the $9bn Keystone XL pipeline project as one of his first acts in office, perhaps as soon as his first day, according to a source familiar with his thinking.
President Donald Trump, a Republican, had made building the pipeline a central promise of his presidential campaign. Biden, who will be inaugurated on Wednesday, was vice president in Democrat Barack Obama’s administration when it rejected the project as being contrary to its efforts to combat climate change.
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The words “Rescind Keystone XL pipeline permit” appear on a list of executive actions likely scheduled for the first day of Biden’s presidency, according to an earlier report by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).
Biden had promised to scrap the oil pipeline’s presidential permit if he became president.
Canada’s ambassador to the US said she would continue to promote a project she says fit with both countries’ environmental plans. “There is no better partner for the US on climate action than Canada as we work together for green transition,” Ambassador Kirsten Hillman said in a statement.
A controversial project
The Keystone XL pipeline, which has been slowed by legal issues in the US, has been controversial since it was first proposed more than 10 years ago. The 1,897km (1,179-mile) segment is designed to move oil from the Canadian province of Alberta through the US states of Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, then connect with an existing network feeding crude to the Gulf Coast. The line would carry as much as 830,000 barrels of oil a day.
Opponents argue it will stimulate the development of Canada’s oil sands, contributing to climate change. Canada’s oil industry argues the project is needed to supply heavy crude to US Gulf Coast refineries, who need the oil to replace declining volumes from Latin America.
The project also faced opposition from environmentalists seeking to check the expansion of the oil sands by opposing new pipelines to move its crude to refineries.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said on Twitter that cancellation would eliminate jobs, weaken US-Canada relations and undermine American national security by making it more dependent on OPEC oil imports. TC Energy Corp., which operates the pipeline, 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 Biden’s support.
Construction is well under way in Canada, with the international border crossing complete. In the US, TC has started construction on pump stations in each of the states the line will pass through, but legal setbacks cost it much of the 2020 construction season.
Former Democratic President Barack Obama axed the project in 2015, saying Canada would reap most of the economic benefits, while the project would add to greenhouse gas emissions.
Trump issued a presidential permit in 2017 that allowed the project to progress. Several environmental groups sued the US government as a result. Environmental and Native American groups contend that Trump exceeded his authority. They claim the pipeline would disturb water supplies and tribal cultural sites.