The administration of US President Donald Trump granted a permission to company TransCanada to construct the polemic pipeline Keystone XL, a project that was rejected by the government of Barack Obama. The Canadian company's previous attempts to start construction in Nebraska have been thwarted by activists and some landowners who argue the pipeline could damage property and contaminate groundwater.
The decision caps the long scientific and political fight over a project that became a proxy battle in the larger fight over global warming. "This is one more step in a joint effort between Congress and the administration to pursue policies that encourage job creation and economic growth". A White House spokeswoman said this month that Trump's directive applied only to new pipelines, and since TransCanada had already stockpiled pipe, "the steel is already literally sitting there". TransCanada has said Keystone won't be built with USA steel.
The project, which would ship more than 800,000 barrels of oil daily from Canada's tar sands to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries, was rejected by the Obama administration a year ago after a decade of protest by climate activists, land owners and Native Americans.
Both Keystone XL, created to carry 830,000 barrels of oil a day, and Dakota Access, with a capacity of 470,000 barrels, have been flashpoints for fossil fuel opponents who argue they'll damage the environment, exacerbate global warming and offer minimal financial advantages to the country. Organized opposition in Nebraska has hindered pipeline developer TransCanada, but leading opponents acknowledge they'll face more of an uphill struggle this time.
In a lengthy report, the State Department alluded to the Paris deal as one reason.
"The bottom line: Keystone, they are finished", he said.
An analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2015 found that the pipeline would release an extra 1.3 billion tons of carbon pollution and other greenhouse gas emissions over its 50-year lifespan. On Friday, the State Department issued a document concluding that the pipeline serves USA interests, by improving access to a "dependable source of oil".
But the level of those benefits has been the subject of exhaustive debate in recent years.
Canada is the largest exporter of oil to the U.S., at about 3.4 million bpd. Many energy experts insisted the truth was somewhere in between.
The pipeline when complete, will run from Alberta, Canada, to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. But while Trump praised the project as a job creator, it is only likely to create 35 permanent jobs.
Instead, TransCanada has received the permit to begin construction using the steel it has already contracted or purchased, which comes entirely from Canada and India. The vast majority would be "indirect" jobs other industries gain from the influx of dollars and construction workers.
Despite the businessman's savvy negotiating skills, the pipeline would create far less jobs than what the current president is predicting. CEO Mario Longhi in February that TransCanada would need to buy "steel made in this country and pipelines made in this country".
"This is a significant milestone for the Keystone XL project", said Russ Girling, TransCanada's president and chief executive.
President Trump signs an executive order related to the oil pipeline industry at the White House on January 24. If the commission approves the route, TransCanada could then initiate legal proceedings to gain access to the land owned by holdout property owners. The company said it expects that process to conclude this year.
On Friday the project was approved by the Trump administration.
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