- Two years after President Donald Trump ordered Keystone XL’s approval, the pipeline still isn’t built.
- Keystone XL has been held up in court after environmentalists sued to block its construction.
- Former President Barack Obama vetoed a bill authorizing Keystone XL in 2015 over global warming concerns.
Two years ago President Donald Trump ordered his administration to move forward with the Keystone XL oil pipeline, but not a single piece of pipe for the project has been laid in that time.
This is a red flag to conservatives and pro-pipeline groups who see political risks in Keystone XL being further delayed. The $8 billion pipeline is currently held up in court, and further delays could prevent TransCanada from finishing pre-construction work this year.
“Breaking ground on the northern leg of the Keystone XL Pipeline before 2021 is critical,” Tom Pyle, president of the pro-pipeline Institute for Energy Research, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“The Administration needs to focus like a laser on getting as much done this year as possible,” said Pyle, who served on Trump’s transition team.
TransCanada asked a federal judge in Montana in early January to allow pre-construction activities, including hauling pipe and setting up work camps, to be completed while the State Department redoes its environmental analysis.
A couple more months of delay would push pre-construction work into 2020, an election year. Even if construction began that year, it would take a Trump election victory to ensure the pipeline’s completion.
“We expect construction to take about two years. Construction has not started,” TransCanada spokesman Matthew John told TheDCNF.
To Pyle, however, the strategy here is clear. Environmentalists will use the courts to delay Keystone XL in the hopes Trump is not re-elected in 2020, whereby a Democratic president could rescind the pipeline’s approval.
“The greens’ whole strategy is to delay and obstruct into the next election in the hopes that President Trump doesn’t get re-elected. Then they can reverse course,” Pyle said.
It’s a frustrating turn events after 11 years of fighting to keep the project alive in the face of intense activist opposition. TransCanada filed paperwork to build Keystone XL in 2008.
Thursday marks the second anniversary of Trump’s executive orders to advance the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines that were held up, then ultimately rejected by the Obama administration.
Exactly two months later, the State Department approved TransCanada’s application for a cross-border permit that would allow Keystone XL to bring oil sands 1,200 miles from Alberta, Canada, to Steele City, Nebraska. The pipeline is designed to carry 800,000 barrels of oil per day.
Trump’s decision angered environmentalists who’d fought for years to block major pipelines, including Keystone XL, calling it a threat to the environment and the climate — though, even the Obama State Department’s analysis discounted these arguments.
Environmentalists took to the courts to block the pipelines, but were unsuccessful in keeping the Dakota Access pipeline from coming online. However, environmentalists won a key victory in November when a Judge Brian Morris of United States District Court for Montana, an Obama appointee, blocked the project.
Morris ruled the State Department’s environmental review of Keystone XL didn’t properly consider future global warming and impacts from potential oil spills.
“The Trump administration tried to force this dirty pipeline project on the American people, but they can’t ignore the threats it would pose to our clean water, our climate, and our communities,” the Sierra Club, one of the activist groups that sued to stop the pipeline, said in a statement.
The Sierra Club has been one of the main Keystone XL opponents, holding protests outside the White House to urge former President Barack Obama to reject the project, which he did in late 2015. The Sierra Club did not respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment.
Keystone XL supporters see this as part of a troubling trend of environmental groups turning to the courts to undo decisions they failed to block through the political process.
“These ongoing lawsuits are the green group’s way of pushing their radical agenda,” said Daniel Turner, founder and executive director of Power the Future, a pro-energy advocacy group.
“They lack both the votes in Congress and popular interest, and they no longer have the Obama administration’s executive orders,” Turner said in a statement. “The only option is a sympathetic activist judge.”
Morris told TransCanada he would “rule as soon as I can” on the company’s request to proceed with pre-construction activities. TransCanada is also appealing the ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
TransCanada says a one-year delay in building Keystone XL would cost the company $949 million between March 2021 and March 2022. Construction delays would also mean $2.56 billion in financial harm to contractors and 6,600 lost jobs, the company said.
If Morris approves TransCanada’s request soon, the company could begin construction in August. However, the project is still awaiting permits from the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
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