Controversial Keystone XL Pipeline Comes Back to Life With News of Trump Win

Facing protests over the environment, Obama killed the Keystone XL pipeline. Now it could be back.

Nov 10 2016, 2:28pm

Keystone XL protest at the White House in 2011. Image: chesapeakeclimate/Flickr

News of Donald Trump's win on Tuesday night brought plenty of reactions—from elation to despair—but for TransCanada, a Calgary-based pipeline builder, it was a signal to get moving. Under President Barack Obama, the majorly controversial Keystone XL pipeline project, which would will carry up to 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day, was killed.

But Trump has indicated he might bring it back to life, as long as he gets a "better deal" and more profit for the US as a result. TransCanada has said it's still committed to the project, and plans to engage with the President-elect.

A former US Department of Energy staffer told the CBC that the Keystone XL pipeline, representing the northern connection of Alberta's tar sands moving crude oil to the refineries along the Texas gulf coast, could be approved within days of Trump's inauguration.

Keystone XL protest at the White House in 2011. Image: tarsandsaction/Flickr

A number of Canadians would welcome Keystone XL's approval, as it would bolster a flagging Albertan economy. When the deal died in 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called himself "disappointed," and Conservatives are saying they'll push him to get it going now that they've got a possible ally on this project in Washington.

On Twitter, Canada's former Conservative PM, Stephen Harper, issued a call to get moving on the pipeline and a congratulations to Trump.

TransCanada fought a seven-year battle with the Obama administration to get the project built, and came up against strong environmental opposition, which culminated in a presidential veto in November 2015. Opponents in the US have attention to the impact the pipeline would have on an aquifer that fed major urban centres, threats to indigenous sites, and even the route it takes through a newly active seismic zone. (The proposed route was moved several times as a result of protesters' efforts.)

Read More: How We Plan to Cover the Environment In a Trump Presidency

Canadian critics, meanwhile, cite a lack of economic benefit to the country, and the support it would give one of the dirtiest sources of energy in North America—the oil sands.

The new President-elect, who has previously stated that climate change is a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese and has been extremely critical of regulations in place to protect the environment, doesn't seem to have such qualms.

Although Trudeau has yet to comment on what he'll do about Keystone XL with Trump in the White House, his track record so far indicates he might be amenable to its development. The Pacific NorthWest LNG project was approved earlier this year despite harsh criticism from environmentalists and indigenous groups, and the Kinder Morgan's TransMountain pipeline just took a step closer after a key condition was met.

Both projects are on Canada's Pacific coast, which has been reeling from environmental accidents, although Trudeau just pledged $1.5 billion over five years for marine protection in the area.

It's still impossible to say exactly what will happen with Keystone XL, or any other pipeline. Trump has said that ultimately, he would prefer to drill oil from American sources.

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