The premier of Canada’s oil-rich province of Alberta is calling on United States President-elect Joe Biden to “show respect for Canada” and negotiate the future of the contentious, multibillion-dollar Keystone XL pipeline project.
During a news conference on Monday, Premier Jason Kenney said he was concerned by reports during the weekend that Biden, who will be inaugurated on Wednesday, will cancel the pipeline on his first day in office.
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“We hope that President-elect Biden will show respect for Canada and will sit down and at the very least talk to us, talk to this country, about the issues,” Kenney said.
CBC News reported on Sunday that Biden plans to nix the project.
The words “Rescind Keystone XL pipeline permit” appear on a list of executive actions scheduled for the first day of the Biden administration, Canada’s national broadcaster said.
Set to stretch 1,947km (1,210 miles) from Alberta to the US state of Nebraska, the Keystone XL pipeline is slated to ship 830,000 barrels of oil per day between the two countries.
It has faced staunch opposition from environmental and Indigenous groups in the US and Canada, who said the pipeline will worsen the climate crisis and threatens land and waterways along the route. Some organisations have mounted legal challenges against the pipeline, as well.
Former US President Barack Obama vetoed the project in 2015, saying it was not economically viable for the US.
But President Donald Trump in 2017 signed an executive order authorising Keystone XL to move forward and in 2019, he signed a presidential order replacing his previous authorisation in an attempt to speed up the process.
TC Energy Corp, the company behind the project, which changed its name from TransCanada last year, said in March that the pipeline should be operational by 2023 and would inject $8bn into the North American economy.
In an emailed statement to Al Jazeera on Monday evening, Canadian Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan said Canada’s “support for the Keystone XL project is long-standing and well-known”.
“And we continue to make the case for it to our American colleagues,” O’Regan said.
“Canadian oil is produced under strong environmental and climate policy frameworks, and this project will not only strengthen the vital Canada-U.S. energy relationship, but create thousands of good jobs for workers on both sides of the border.”
But despite Canada’s position, Biden, who served as US vice president when Obama cancelled the project, said in an interview with CNBC in May of last year that he has “been against Keystone from the beginning”.
“It is tar sands that we don’t need [and] that in fact is a very, very high pollutant,” Biden said at the time.
Environmentalists had welcomed Biden’s plan to cancel the pipeline when he was declared the winner of the recent US presidential elections.
Cameron Fenton, Canada team leader at environmental advocacy group 350.org, told Al Jazeera in November that thousands of people had signed an open letter urging the incoming US president to stand by his promise.
“We wanted to try and make it clear that … our government and the fossil fuel lobbyists that they’re working with are not speaking on behalf of everyone in Canada, where the vast majority of people support increased ambition on climate and increased action,” Fenton said.
During the news conference on Monday, Kenney – whose Alberta government invested 1.5 billion Canadian dollars ($1.1bn) in Keystone XL last year – said the province could lose one billion Canadian dollars ($784m) if the project is cancelled.
“That would be in our view a serious economic and strategic error that would set back … relations with the United States’ most important trading partner and strategic ally: Canada,” he told reporters.
Kenney added that Alberta could “pursue legal action” to defends its interests – but did not elaborate further, saying he hoped it would not come to that.