Joe Biden to Cancel Keystone Pipeline, Another Blow to Canadian Oil Industry

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who has invested over a billion dollars of public money into the project, spoke out against the reported move.
Anya Zoledziowski
Toronto, CA
President-elect Joe Biden and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney
President-elect Joe Biden could cancel Keystone XL this week. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney isn't happy about it. Photos by Alex Wong/Getty Images (le Cole Burston/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden has suggested he will cancel the controversial Keystone XL pipeline on his first day in office, a move that doesn’t sit well with Canadian officials.

Biden’s team shared a briefing note with stakeholders over the weekend, which included a task list dated Wednesday, the Canadian Press reported. It reportedly includes plans to issue an executive order that will remove Keystone XL’s construction permit, first brought in by President Donald Trump.

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“Roll back Trump enviro actions via EO (including rescind Keystone XL pipeline permit),” the note says.

Biden has also said the U.S. will rejoin the Paris climate accord as soon as he is inaugurated on Wednesday and pledged to repeal dozens of Trump-era policies.

Several Canadian politicians, including Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, criticized Biden’s Keystone XL stance after the news broke. 

“I am deeply concerned by reports that the incoming administration of President-Elect Joe Biden may repeal the presidential permit for the Keystone XL border crossing this week,” Kenney said in a statement. “We renew our call for the incoming administration to show respect to Canada as the United States’ most important trading partner and strategic ally.”

Kenney said the project’s cancellation would eliminate jobs on both sides of the border, put a stain on U.S.-Canada relations, and compromise U.S. national security by making the country more reliant on OPEC oil imports.

The more than $8 billion pipeline, first proposed in 2008, is meant to carry crude oil 1,947 kilometres, from Alberta to Nebraska, before connecting to an existing pipeline that travels all the way to Texas. Kenney, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s support, has touted the pipeline as a key priority that will bring hundreds of jobs to the province—a premise that is heavily disputed. Experts say pipelines largely create unsustainable, short-term work.

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Kenney is facing ongoing and mounting criticism for betting Alberta’s future on its atrophying oil and gas industry, including by pledging an additional $1.5 billion of public money for Keystone XL in March, at a time when global oil prices were hitting historic lows. To make matters worse, experts say they don’t expect oil prices to climb enough to make Alberta’s oil and gas industry prosperous again anytime soon. 

Alberta NDP opposition leader Rachel Notley is pro-pipeline, despite opposition from her left-leaning base and  blamed Kenney for the U.S.’ decision. 

“The risk surrounding the Keystone XL pipeline has been very obvious for some time,” Notley said. “While there’s no question that the successful completion of (Keystone XL) can be beneficial to Alberta’s economy, the premier has never come clean on the economic and risk analysis associated with his massive gamble.”

Notley added that Kenney’s failure to adhere to and implement strong environmental and climate policies make it difficult for the U.S. to accept the pipeline project. 

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and federal Conservative leader Erin O’Toole also issued statements against Keystone’s cancellation. “I call on the Prime Minister to immediately reach out to the incoming U.S. administration to stop this from happening,” O’Toole said. 

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Trudeau told Biden during their first post-election conversation back in November that he hopes to discuss Keystone XL’s future, and Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. told CBC News she will continue to promote the pipeline. 

"The Government of Canada continues to support the Keystone XL project and the benefits that it will bring to both Canada and the United States," Hillman said.

Yet Biden’s plan to put an end to the pipeline shouldn’t come as a surprise: while the president-elect has never offered a timeline for Keystone’s cancellation, he said months ago that he plans to squash it. 

Activists say they hope Biden will go beyond cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline by putting an end to other resource extraction projects, including the Dakota Access and Enbridge’s Line 3 pipelines. Both projects are heavily criticized for associated environmental risks and for infringing on Indigenous rights. 

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