The Keystone XL pipeline received approval early this morning from the Trump White House, with the breaking news report from The Canadian Press acknowledging the “hurdles” Calgary-based TransCanada Corporation faces acquiring a permit in Nebraska or agreement from landowners along the pipeline route.
The announcement, time-stamped 7:13 AM ET, came just days before the 60-day expiry of Trump’s January executive order on the controversial project.
“The fight is still there,” said Jane Kleeb, founder of Bold Nebraska, a coalition of landowners, Native Americans, and climate activists that led the first fight against Keystone, and has been gearing up for Round Two. “For seven years, we’ve learned how to organize.”
“Nebraska farmers and ranchers need a president standing up for property rights and our clean water to produce American food,” she said in January, after Trump signed the executive order. “Foreign tarsands pipelines headed to the export market have no place in the Heartland. There is no application for Keystone XL, and there never has been an approved route in Nebraska. The president should focus on American energy independence rather than taking land away from farmers using eminent domain for private gain.”
Kleeb and other opponents have also been quick to question whether the White House has its story straight on the rules that would govern the controversial project. One of the issues, writes analyst Josh Axelrod on the NRDC Expert Blog, is whether Trump will require TransCanada to build the pipeline with U.S. steel.
That campaign promise was apparently put to rest March 2 when the White House declared that “the Keystone XL Pipeline is currently in the process of being constructed, so it does not count as a new, retrofitted, repaired or expanded pipeline.” Even though, as Axelrod points out, out the project is not “in the process of being constructed” anywhere in the U.S.
But Trump was singing a different earlier this week, at a campaign-style rally in Kentucky. Referring to the moment when he signed his Keystone executive order, “I said where are they getting the steel? Where?” Trump told his audience. “And I said, you know what? If people want to build a pipeline in the United States, they should use American steel and they should build it and create it right here, that pipe is going to be manufactured right here….We believe in two simple rules, buy American and hire American.”
If Trump presses the point, Axelrod says TransCanada might reopen the NAFTA lawsuit it launched after President Barack Obama refused the project, then suspended after Trump invited it to reapply.
Beyond the “cognitive dissonance” on Keystone between Trump and his advisors, Axelrod notes that “this zombie project remains what it always was for Americans: all risk and no reward. It remains an environmental catastrophe waiting to happen: a risk to our shared global climate, our precious fresh water sources, and our farms and ranches across America’s heartland.”
He adds that “more Americans are opposed to it than in favour: 48% to 42%. President Trump and his team would do well to stop trying to polish this tarnished project into something it can never be—a good deal for Americans, American workers, and our shared environment.”
Last week, DeSmog Canada cited three key factors—economics, landowners, and environment—that could still stop Keystone in its tracks.
“There will be no more greenfield projects if the price of oil stays at what it is,” said unconventional fuels specialist David Hughes, formerly with the Geological Survey of Canada.
“The economic case is not there for the three pipelines,” agreed North American climate mitigation lead Amin Asadollahi of the International Institute for Sustainable Development. “Should the massive expansion happen, I don’t think the financial benefits for the sector…would be there.”