BREAKING: Trump administration issues permit for Keystone XL pipeline

In a reversal of an Obama administration decision, the Trump State Department issues a permit allowing the Keystone pipeline to move forward.

President Donald Trump shows his signature on an executive order on the Keystone XL pipeline, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci
President Donald Trump shows his signature on an executive order on the Keystone XL pipeline, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

On Friday morning, pipeline developer TransCanada announced that it had received a presidential permit to move forward with the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The Obama administration spent six years considering the controversial cross-border pipeline before ultimately denying a permit for its construction in November of 2015. The Trump administration reversed that decision after a little more than 60 days in office, following an executive order issued January 24 by President Trump calling for TransCanada to resubmit its permit request to the State Department. President Trump is scheduled to make a statement about the pipeline at 10:15 a.m. on Friday.

TransCanada also announced Friday morning that it has discontinued both a federal lawsuit to appeal the Obama administration’s rejection of the pipeline and a NAFTA claim for $15 billion in costs and damages.

The Keystone XL pipeline required approval from the State Department because the pipeline would cross the United States-Canada border, bringing tar sands oil from Canada down to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast. The pipeline, which was initially slated to open in 2012, would carry 830,000 barrels a day and could be responsible for more than 181 million metric tons of added carbon dioxide every year.

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The pipeline became a rallying point for the environmental movement during the Obama administration, with environmentalists arguing that the pipeline posed a threat to both local environments — creating an increased risk of oil spills, for instance — and the climate writ large. Proponents argued that the pipeline would be a safer method of transportation than shipping the crude oil by rail or truck and framed the project as a job creator for the United States economy.

A State Department report from 2013 found that the pipeline would create 42,100 indirect jobs and 3,900 direct jobs for the one to two year period that the pipeline is under construction; in the long run, however, the pipeline is only expected to support 35 permanent jobs.

Trump also pledged, both during the campaign and as president, that he would negotiate a deal requiring TransCanada to build the pipeline with steel manufactured in the United States. That requirement, however, is not legally binding, and the White House has since suggested that TransCanada might not be held to that standard after all.

While the presidential permit is certainly a big win for the pipeline, TransCanada still faces a number of hurdles before it can complete construction on the Keystone XL pipeline. The Nebraska Public Service Commission — a five-person panel in Nebraska — will now decide whether to give TransCanada permission to build the pipeline through the state. Nebraska residents and environmental activists have already said they are ready to resists the pipeline, though Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) praised the pipeline as something that “will create good-paying jobs for Nebraska workers.” Construction of the pipeline will also likely reignite debate between landowners and TransCanada over questions of eminent domain.

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Throughout the country, opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline exceeds support for it, according to a recent poll from Quinnipiac University, which found that 51 percent of Americans oppose restarting construction of the pipeline.

“This project has already been defeated, and it will be once again,” Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said in a statement. “The project faces a long fight ahead in the states, but the fact remains that the American people do not want more fossil fuels, we do not want our private and public lands destroyed by a pipeline carrying the dirtiest fuel around, and we do not want our future and our children’s future to continue be threatened by climate change.”

Organizers have already scheduled two events for tonight in protest of the Trump administration’s decision — one in front of Trump Tower in New York City and another in front of the White House.