Biden dealt a fatal blow to the partially built $9 billion Keystone XL in January, when he revoked cross-border permits issued by former President Donald Trump. On Wednesday, sponsor TC Energy and the Province of Alberta conceded defeat and declared the line “finished”.
Activists and many scientists had warned that the pipeline would open a new spigot on Canada’s oil sands crude oil – and lock in climate change by burning the heavily polluting fuel. As the fight escalated into a national debate over fossil fuels, Canadian crude exports to the US continued to increase, largely driven by production from Alberta’s oil sands field.
Even before the cancellation, environmentalists had turned their attention to other projects, including Enbridge Energy’s proposal to expand and rebuild its Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota, the target of protests this week that led to the arrest of nearly 250 activists. I went.
“Don’t expect these fights to go away anytime soon,” said Daniel Raimi, a fellow at Resources for the Future, an energy and environmental think tank in Washington. “It’s going to encourage environmental advocates to do the same.”
Bill McKibben, a writer who was arrested outside the White House protesting the Keystone XL in 2011, said its defeat provided a template for hitting Line 3 and other pipelines, including the Dakota Access Pipeline from North Dakota’s Bakken oil field.
Describing the Keystone XL as “a carbon bomb”, McKibben said Line 3 is the same size and “carries the same stuff. How on earth can someone with a straight face say that Line 3 passed the climate test?” does it?”
Enbridge said the cancellation of Keystone XL would not affect its projects, describing them as “ways to safely meet current energy demand and better protect the environment.”
A second TC Energy pipeline network, known as Keystone, has been supplying crude oil from Canada’s oil sands field since 2010. The company says the line, which runs from Alberta to Illinois, Oklahoma and the Gulf Coast, has carried more than 3 billion barrels of oil. .
Canada is by far the largest foreign crude oil supplier to the US, importing about 3.5 million barrels per day from its neighbor in 2020 – 61% of all US oil imports.
Flow dropped slightly during the coronavirus pandemic, but rebounded substantially. According to the US Energy Information Administration, the volume of imports has nearly doubled since the Keystone XL was first proposed in 2008.
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers said Thursday it does not expect an immediate impact on production from the cancellation of the Keystone XL, but the group predicts that more oil will be transported to the US by rail.
An increase in rail shipments of crude oil during an oil boom in the Northern Plains was followed by a series of fire accidents in the US and Canada, including a 2013 incident in which a runaway train derailed in the Quebec city of Lac-Mégatique. 47 people were killed after landing.
The dispute over the Keystone XL and other lines led to diplomatic tensions between the two countries, but Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took a conciliatory tone with Biden, who canceled the pipeline on his first day at the White House.
According to Natural Resources Canada, Canada uses far less oil than it produces, making it a major exporter, and 98% of those exports go to the US.
Trudeau raised Keystone XL with Biden as a top priority, while acknowledging that the president had promised in his campaign to scrap the line.
Both leaders have taken the heat home on Keystone, with Republicans slamming Biden for shutting it down during construction that took hundreds of jobs. The project was meant to expand oil exports to Canada, which has the world’s third largest oil reserves, and provincial officials in Alberta wanted Trudeau to do more to protect it.
The White House declined to comment on the cancellation. Spokesperson Vedanta Patel declined to say whether Biden plans to address increased crude exports from Canada or to intervene in other pipeline disputes.
His action on Keystone “indicates at least some appetite for getting involved,” but pipelines that have operated for years will be tough targets, Raimi said.
Winona LaDuke, executive director of Indigenous-based environmental group Honor the Earth, called on Biden to withdraw the Army Corps of Engineers permit for Line 3 and order a new study.
“That can stop the project,” she said. “Don’t tell us to be nice to Enbridge. They’re on our land. They’re hurting us.”
Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said the Biden administration has been “disturbingly quiet” on Line 3 and the Dakota Access line. He urged the administration to declare both as unacceptable.
Fiercely opposed by Native Americans, the Dakota Access Pipeline was the impetus for the protest which was quashed by law enforcement. The Biden administration has not sought to stop the line, and it is still in court after a judge revoked his permit but allowed the oil to flow.
Alberta invested more than $1 billion in Keystone XL last year to begin construction. Province officials are considering trade action against the US to demand compensation.
The price tag of the Keystone XL increased from $5.4 billion to $9 billion with the completion of the project.
Another question: what to do with the pipe already on the US-Canada border and the other infrastructure along its route.
Jane Kleb, a pipeline rival in Nebraska, said state regulators should rescind permits approved for a route through the state. Otherwise, she said, TC Energy may try to sell the easement to another company.
Unless the state takes action, farmers and ranchers face TC Energy lawyers in court to “protect their assets from a reputed domain land grab by a foreign corporation,” she said.
The Daily reported from Washington and Fleischer from Traverse City, Michigan. Rob Gillies contributed from Toronto and Grant Schulte from Omaha, Nebraska.
Follow Brown on Twitter: @MatthewBrownAP