Keystone XL rejected

From today’s announcement from Barack Obama:

Today, we’re continuing to lead by example. Because 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.

As long as I’m President of the United States, America is going to hold ourselves to the same high standards to which we hold the rest of the world. And three weeks from now, I look forward to joining my fellow world leaders in Paris, where we’ve got to come together around an ambitious framework to protect the one planet that we’ve got while we still can.

If we want to prevent the worst effects of climate change before it’s too late, the time to act is now. Not later. Not someday. Right here, right now. And I’m optimistic about what we can accomplish together. I’m optimistic because our own country proves, every day — one step at a time — that not only do we have the power to combat this threat, we can do it while creating new jobs, while growing our economy, while saving money, while helping consumers, and most of all, leaving our kids a cleaner, safer planet at the same time.

This action is a major statement about the need to transition away from fossil fuels and avoid developing them in their most damaging form. It will surely add even more energy to efforts to block other bitumen sands pipelines and otherwise drive the transition to a climate-safe global economy.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

38 thoughts on “Keystone XL rejected”

  1. A great and timely decision. Let’s hope that it will inspire similar decisions in many countries.

  2. This decision would not have seemed possible 4 years ago. Well done to the coalition that contributed to it. It also reflects the almost consensus of awareness concerning climate change. Interesting and reflective of that is that Canada’s Minister of Embironment is now Miniater of Environment and Climate Change


    Keystone XL is dead: A seven-year political drama came to a decidedly predictable end in November as U.S. President Barack Obama rejected TransCanada Corp.’s bid to build the cross-border leg of the Keystone XL pipeline from the oilsands that became an environmental flashpoint globally and set off a diplomatic row between Ottawa and Washington. The end for the 825,000 barrel-per-day project came just weeks after Prime Minister Stephen Harper — a champion of pipelines, who had called Obama’s approval of Keystone “a no brainer” — was defeated in a federal election in Canada.

    Rejection of Keystone XL highlighted the growing concern for Canadian producers gaining access to tidewater ports and global markets for growing volumes of already discounted crude as determined opponents to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway, Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion and TransCanada’s Energy East become a challenge in policy debates and regulatory hearings.


    Barack Obama killed Keystone. Enbridge’s Northern Gateway scheme to the West Coast is alive in name only, thanks in part to opposition from Mr. Trudeau himself. There is vehement resistance in Greater Vancouver – led by some prominent mayors there – to the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion. Worse, the B.C. government recently came out against the plan as well. This left Energy East as the most promising vehicle to get Alberta oil to fresh markets

    At the same time, Mr. Trudeau, at least the one who was campaigning last October, said that for pipelines to be built the proponents needed to achieve “public trust” – a stand-in for the ever-ambiguous “social licence.” It’s going to be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve the necessary public trust to build Energy East given the developments of this week.

    That is why this is such an intractable problem for the Prime Minister. He has, in some respects, painted himself into a corner, one that will be difficult to get out of. But get out of it he must, or there will be a harsh price to pay.

  5. Whoever becomes his new secretary of the interior and his energy secretary, the incoming officials are expected to be strong advocates of further opening federal lands to oil, gas and coal production. Mr Trump has also suggested that TransCanada, an Alberta-based firm, renew an application to build the fourth phase of the Keystone XL pipeline project bringing Canadian crude across the border, which was blocked by Mr Obama last year.

    Though Mr Trump can unwind many domestic environmental regulations, analysts say he may find his hands tied by market forces, by the limits to federal power and by the fact that energy investments can take decades to pay, making it unwise for owners of power plants, oil-and-gas fields, and pipelines in America to dismiss the clean-energy revolution. First, his desire to open up what he says may be $50 trillion-worth of oil and gas reserves under federal lands will depend on oil prices. Even with lower regulatory costs, oil prices still need to rise well above $50 a barrel to make most drilling in America economic. Now, there is too much oil, not too little.

  6. Trump Revives Keystone Pipeline Rejected by Obama

    WASHINGTON — President Trump moved assertively on Tuesday to resurrect a pipeline in the Dakotas that had become a major flashpoint for Native Americans, while reviving the Keystone XL pipeline, which had stirred years of debate over the balance between energy needs and environmental concerns.

    The actions were the latest to dismantle Obama era policies. The former president rejected the proposed 1,179-mile Keystone pipeline in 2015, arguing that it would undercut American leadership in curbing reliance on carbon energy to address a warming climate.

    Mr. Trump signed a document clearing the way for the government to reconsider the pipeline as well as another expediting the Dakota Access pipeline from North and South Dakota to Illinois.

  7. Trudeau welcomes Trump’s Keystone XL decision

    U.S. president approves $8B pipeline project but says it’s still subject to ‘renegotiation of terms by us’

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is strongly in favour of Donald Trump’s decision to green-light the Keystone XL pipeline project, a move he says will be a boon for Canadian jobs and government coffers, and help a hobbled Alberta recover from the steep decline in oil prices.

    Trudeau said he has spoken to the new U.S. president twice, and on both occasions he pressed upon him Canada’s steadfast support for the $8-billion project, which could carry more than 800,000 barrels of Alberta oil a day to refineries in Texas.

    “I reiterated my support for the project. I’ve been on the record for many years supporting [Keystone XL] because it leads to economic growth and good jobs for Albertans,” he told reporters assembled in Calgary for the federal cabinet retreat.

    “We know we can get our resources to market more safely and responsibly while meeting our climate change goals,” he said, adding Premier Rachel Notley’s hard cap on oilsands emissions will ensure Canada meets its reduction targets.

  8. Then take things like the Keystone pipeline permits, the promise to deregulate and the most recently signed orders about crime. The January 24 order on infrastructure begins with a sentiment almost anyone could agree with: “Infrastructure investment strengthens our economic platform, makes America more competitive, creates millions of jobs, increases wages for American workers, and reduces the costs of goods and services for American families and consumers. Too often, infrastructure projects in the United States have been routinely and excessively delayed by agency processes and procedures.” It then declares that the policy of the Executive Branch is to expedite the permitting of such projects. That was followed by two memoranda on the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines that had been denied permits during Obama’s tenure, which urges the companies to re-submit their permit applications for review.

    That might seem like an order to have the pipelines built. But Keystone remains almost entirely an idea, and oil shipments and infrastructure from Canada have long since been routed elsewhere given the years and years of delay in ever authorizing it. The Dakota Access Pipeline is largely complete, with a major dispute over its passage through tribal lands, and here too, it is unlikely that a presidential memorandum has any legal bearing on how that issue is resolved given that it lies within the purview of the Army Corps of Engineers and cannot simply be countermanded by the White House.

  9. In a rational world, the evidence for global warming would have us running as fast as we can from projects like Keystone. The pipeline’s economic rationale rests on its functioning for decades to come — it locks us into at least 50 more years of taking oil out of the tar sands and refining it into gasoline, slowing down the pace at which we’d install the renewable energy on which our future as a planet (and as an economic power) depends. The only reason — the only reason — for building Keystone XL or for ending other Obama-era climate rules is to help the fossil fuel industry. But since that industry owns the GOP, the Trump administration will do its bidding — he is, after all, the president who once announced that climate change was a Chinese hoax and hired Exxon’s CEO to run his State Department.

  10. Risen From the Grave, Keystone XL Pipeline Again Divides Nebraska

    But in spots along the proposed route through Nebraska, including here on the sandy soil of the Crumly family farm, the president’s decision is being met with frustration and resolve to resume the fight.

    Jeanne Crumly, who sees Keystone XL as a dire threat to this land, believes Mr. Trump is supporting it without “really giving a hoot of how there are people and livelihoods at stake here.”

    “It was going to be where he flexed his muscle,” she said.

    State-level permits and easements along the three-state pipeline route are in place in Montana and South Dakota. That leaves Nebraska — where voters overwhelmingly favored Mr. Trump, but where a coalition delayed the pipeline for years during President Barack Obama’s administration — as the best chance to block construction. Nebraska regulators will hear public comment on the project at a 10-hour meeting on Wednesday.

    If Ms. Crumly and her allies prevail, several dozen rural landowners will have triumphed over a transnational energy company and the wishes of their president and governor. If they fail, oil will flow through the Crumly property, in a grassy strip between where cows wander and corn grows.

  11. “Perhaps even more significant to Obama’s decision [to delay a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline until after the 2012 election] than the Keystone XL protests and threats of European Union sanction was that the United States was hosting an oil boom of its own. In a few short years after the American economy’s vicious downturn in the fall of 2008, technological breakthroughs in hydraulic fracturing had combined with Obama’s generous stimulus program to ignite the biggest increase in US domestic oil production in half a century. Nearly everywhere where major deposits of oil-rich shale could be found — central Pennsylvania, near the original Rockefeller-era oil strikes; the foothills of Colorado; the plains of Oklahoma and West Texas; and especially the Bakken formation in North Dakota — there were now thousands of new oil wells producing fracked crude cheaper and faster than Alberta’s bitumen could get to market. The shale threat had stalked the Patch for nearly its entire history — Karl Clark’s colleagues fretted over it in the 1950s, and Peter Lougheed worries in the 1970s that Colorado shale would eliminate the market for new bitumen if the in situ deposits weren’t developed. And now the feared shale boom had arrived. While activists mounted noisy campaigns against the eight hundred thousand barrels of oil Alberta producers wanted to ship to the United States via Keystone XL, American shale producers increased domestic oil supply by more than two million barrels per day from 2010 to 2013 alone. And the bonanza meant that Barack Obama had more wiggle room by the day to delay a verdict on the pipeline. The urgency was gone. The Patch had lost much of its leverage.”

    Turner, Chris. The Patch: The People, Pipelines and Politics of the Oil Sands. Simon & Schuster, 2017. p. 239–40

  12. The Keystone XL pipeline has won approval in Nebraska

    That is no guarantee it will actually be built

    Once all the reviews are completed, it may be economics rather than politics that halts the pipeline. “The financial viability of the project is highly speculative,” says Tom Sanzillo of the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, a research group, who thinks there is only a 20-30% chance the pipeline will be built. For Keystone XL to work financially, the price of oil needs to be $80-90 a barrel, with an upward trajectory, says Mr Sanzillo. The price of oil is at $60 a barrel, compared with $140 in 2008 when TransCanada first applied for a permit to pipe oil across the American-Canadian border. Lorne Stockman of Oil Change International, an advocacy group, also thinks the pipeline is unlikely to be built. To get going TransCanada needs to sign up enough clients with long-term contracts for 90% of the capacity of Keystone XL, which will be able to transport 830,000 barrels of oil a day (compared with 600,000 barrels from the current pipeline). “Shippers will not have signed the dotted line before the Nebraska decision,” says Mr Stockman. And they are likely to be more hesitant to sign up now given that the route has been altered from the one preferred by TransCanada.

  13. “Dallas Goldtooth has been following the twists and turns of the project for years, and the Keep It In The Ground campaign organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network said he was flustered because the ruling was “huge news.”

    “We keep killing it, and it keeps coming back from the dead,” said Goldtooth, who is a Mdewakanton Dakota and Diñe man based in Minnesota.

    Goldtooth, one of the plaintiffs represented by Volker, said if necessary he would show up at a construction site with judge Morris’ ruling to stand his ground and make sure it is followed.

    “It’s not over for us, we’re just going to keep on going ahead,” he said.”

  14. The judge barred both TransCanada and the U.S. from “from engaging in any activity in furtherance of the construction or operation of Keystone and associated facilities” until the U.S. State Department completes a supplemental review.

    In his ruling, the judge noted that the Department’s analysis fell short of a “hard look” and requires a supplement to the 2014 supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) in order to comply with its obligations under National Environmental Policy Act. They include:

    • The effects of current oil prices on the viability of Keystone
    • The cumulative effects of greenhouse gas emissions from the Alberta Clipper expansion and Keystone
    • A survey of potential cultural resources contained in the 1,038 acres not addressed in the 2014 SEIS, and
    • An updated modeling of potential oil spills and recommended mitigation measures

  15. This month, U.S. President-Elect Joe Biden assumes office after campaigning to kill the Keystone XL pipeline — a pipeline construction project that would stretch from Hardisty, Alta. to Steele City, Nebraska.

    The Alberta government has pinned its hopes on the completion of that project. The province said it would invest $1.5 billion in Keystone as equity in 2020, backed further by another $6 billion project level credit facility in 2021.

    While the trouble facing Keystone XL might be a setback for Canada’s oilpatch and the Alberta government, it could offer a further compelling argument for Trans Mountain’s backers, who are always defending the pipeline against fierce criticism.

    “It is highly likely that Joe Biden will find some way to disable construction of the Keystone XL in the United States,” said McConaghy, who oversaw the Keystone XL project for Trans Canada. “I say that with a great deal of sadness, disappointment and anger.”

    “So as far as 2021 is concerned, I think the efforts to get TMX built get even more critical than they were before.”

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