Keystone XL Oil Pipeline Is Terminated After Years of Climate Activism

Keystone XL Oil Pipeline Is Terminated After Years of Climate Activism

2021-06-11 05:45:53

TC Energy Corp. has ended its 16-year quest to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline, a controversial cross-border project that became a litmus test for climate activism and was blocked by President Joe Biden.

Calgary-based TC Energy said in a statement it had formally terminated the project after consultations with the Alberta government in Canada. Earlier this year, it had already suspended construction on the pipeline after Biden withdrew a presidential permit for the project.

Keystone XL helped fuel modern climate activism and united environmental activists in a fight against the project that some described as a "dirty climate bomb." It also changed the course of American environmentalism from its roots in the fight against nuclear energy, toxic waste and chemical insecticides in the 1960s and 1970s.

"The protest against the Keystone pipeline was a huge development in the climate movement," and the project's cancellation "is a testament to the effectiveness of collective citizen action," said Robert Brulle, a visiting professor at Brown University who is an expert on the field of environment. activism.

Opposition to Keystone, he added, bolstered action on climate change and "marked the end of the unprotested expansion of US oil and gas infrastructure."

TC Energy's decision ends a long battle over the 1,200-mile (1,930-kilometer) pipeline designed to carry more than 800,000 barrels of Canadian oil sands crude per day from Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska.

The project had been ravaged by political winds in the US and was rejected by President Barack Obama in 2015 before President Donald Trump revived it two years later. Biden issued an executive order on his first day in office to revoke the critical presidential license for Keystone XL.

Environmentalists said the line would provide an outlet for heavy crude oil extracted in Alberta through particularly energy-intensive processes and that combustion would exacerbate climate change. They ran a decade-long campaign against the project, with fights in state buildings and federal courtrooms — and celebrity-attended protests from the Midwest to the White House.

"When this fight started, people thought 'Big Oil' was unbeatable," said Bill McKibben, founder of, who led the first sit-ins against Keystone XL in 2011 at the White House. House. enough people stand up, we are even stronger than the richest fossil fuel companies.”

The battle against Keystone XL also heralded other battles over the construction of oil and gas pipelines from South Dakota to New York.

“The era of building fossil fuel pipelines without researching their potential impacts on climate change and on local communities is over,” said Anthony Swift, director of the Canada Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Entire segments of Keystone XL, including one that crosses the US-Canadian border, have already been built. Even without Keystone XL, two new pipelines are under construction that, once completed, will provide oil sands producers with more than enough capacity to export crude oil.

Jane Kleeb, the chairman of the Nebraska Democratic Party who has been one of Keystone XL's most prominent opponents, said other projects must now be halted due to the climate crisis and water pollution concerns. Activists have now targeted Enbridge Inc.'s Line 3 in Minnesota.

Read more: Michigan to Enbridge: $900M in Liability Insurance Plus $1.8B Needed for Oil Spill Risk

"We cannot meet President Biden's bold climate goals if we continue to approve pipelines," Kleeb said. “So at this time, we are asking President Biden to pause all other pipelines, such as Line 3 in rural Minnesota, to show respect for the communities and to finally conduct proper water, cultural resources and climate studies that will support those pipelines.” never got under the reckless Trump administration. ”

Republicans Respond

Republicans immediately jumped into action, blaming Biden for the cancellation, contrasting the president's opposition to Keystone XL with his administration's approach to Nord Stream 2, a pipeline to transport natural gas from Russia to Germany. Biden's administration last month waived sanctions against the company that built Nord Stream 2.

Senator Steve Daines, a Republican from Montana, called it "devastating news for our economy, jobs, environment and national security — and it's President Biden's entire fault."

Business interests also lamented Keystone's cancellation, saying it could discourage developers from pursuing other U.S. infrastructure projects that are subject to intensive permit reviews. Marty Durbin, president of the Global Energy Institute at the US Chamber of Commerce, said TC Energy's decision was the result of a policy error by the administration.

There are "opportunity costs for thousands of American workers, some of whom have already lost their jobs on this project, and the communities along the pipeline route that would have received millions in tax revenue to support their schools and infrastructure," Durbin said. "This episode is also a black mark on our relationship with our close ally in the north, Canada, and will have implications for our ability to attract private investment for years to come."

– With help from Robert Tuttle.

Photo: Pipes for the Keystone XL pipeline are shown here stacked at a wharf near Oyen, Alberta, Canada, on Tuesday, January 26, 2021. U.S. President Joe Biden withdrew the permit for the Keystone XL energy pipeline from TC Energy Corp. in via executive order hours after its inauguration, the clearest sign yet that building a major new pipeline in the US has become an impossible task.

Copyright 2021 Bloomberg.

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