posted at 3:21 pm on March 23, 2017 by John Sexton
The Keystone XL pipeline will be approved to cross the U.S.-Candadian border no later than Monday according to a report this morning at Politico:
The move by the State Department comes 16 months after Obama blocked construction of the 1,200-mile pipeline, which would ship crude from Canada’s western oil-sands region to refineries on the Gulf Coast. The pipeline became the subject of major lobbying efforts by both oil industry supporters and environmental groups, which turned the project into the focus of their climate change campaigns.
Undersecretary for political affairs Tom Shannon plans to sign the pipeline’s cross-border permit on or before Monday, the last day for the 60-day timeline that President Donald Trump ordered in January. Secretary of State and former Exxon Mobil Chief Executive Rex Tillerson recused himself from the process.
The Obama administration blocked the pipeline in 2015 by denying it the right to cross the border with Canada. However, even once that crossing is approved the pipeline will still need to work out a route through Nebraska where the state’s Public Service Commission is expected to issue a decision in September.
TransCanada, the company that developed the pipeline, re-applied for a permit in January, shortly after President Trump signed an executive order inviting the company to do so. There remains some question whether the pipeline is still economically feasible with the price of oil much lower than it was when the pipeline was originally proposed. Also, since the Keystone XL project was killed, two pipeline expansions/upgrades have been approved which may create enough capacity to get the oil to market without Keystone XL:
In the fourth quarter of last year, the Canadian government gave federal approval to two major pipeline expansions: the Trans Mountain Expansion and the Line 3 replacement. Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion project will see the construction of a twin line that will run parallel to an existing pipeline from Alberta to the Pacific Coast. The expansion will nearly triple its capacity from 300,000 to 890,000 bpd. Enbridge also received approval for the replacement and overhaul of its Line 3 pipeline from Alberta to Wisconsin in the United States. The replacement of the pipeline will nearly double its carrying capacity to 760,000 bpd.
Greenpeace gave a statement on the pending approval to Reuters, “We will resist these projects with our allies across the country and across borders, and we will continue to build the future the world wants to see.”
Greenpeace, 350.org, the Sierra Club and many other environmental groups support a movement to keep fossil fuels in the ground as a way to prevent putting additional carbon into the atmosphere. These groups oppose the use of coal, oil and natural gas and the technology used to extract them. President Obama specifically referenced this keep-it-in-the-ground movement when he announced the rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline in November 2015. “Ultimately, if we’re going to prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them and release more dangerous pollution into the sky,” Obama said.