Calgary-based pipeliner TC Energy and Natural Law Energy announced a tentative agreement yesterday that could bring up to C$1 billion in new investment and the imprimatur of three Indigenous treaties to the struggling Keystone XL pipeline.
The details of the deal allow nearly a year for Natural Law to raise the funds it will need to seal its investment—or, presumably, to step away if U.S. President-elect Joe Biden follows through on his promise to cancel Keystone once and for all.
The agreement builds on a memorandum of understanding signed two months ago and “gives Natural Law until September, 2021 to secure financing to buy into the pipeline,” the Globe and Mail reports. TC Energy “says it will use similar ownership models for additional Indigenous communities along the Keystone XL corridor in Canada and the United States,” in what the Globe casts as an effort to “help persuade opponents to support the project”.
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“Natural Law Energy is an alliance of First Nations from lands that span Alberta and Saskatchewan,” the paper says, in territories covered by Treaties 4, 6 and 7. Participants in Tuesday’s announcement include the Nekaneet and Little Pine First Nations in Saskatchewan, and the Ermineskin Cree Nation, Montana First Nation, and Louis Bull Tribe in Alberta.
“Natural Law Energy has used the same blueprint our ancestors used when they negotiated the Treaties that governed working together to share the land,” CEO Travis Meguinis said in a release. “Today, we’re pleased to announce that NLE’s definitive agreement is one of the largest ever, with over $1-billion deal for First Nations. We’re a major contributor to economic developments on our traditional lands and will create opportunities for future generations. As an Indigenous-led company, we need to ensure sustainability to Mother Earth and share our understanding as stewards of the land by bringing our traditional protocols and values to these projects.”
But TC Energy and its new partners face an uphill slog. “Keystone XL is still the subject of numerous legal disputes in the United States, and President-elect Joe Biden promised during the recent election campaign that he would tear up a key presidential permit for the project,” the Globe writes.
Last week, The Canadian Press reported that Biden’s and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris’ convincing election win “likely spells the end” for Keystone, even as the Trudeau government pushed the controversial and beleaguered project to the “top of the agenda” for its rebooted relationship with the United States.
CP had Harper-era cabinet minister John Baird and Calgary fossil advocate Richard Masson both acknowledging that Keystone will likely be history once Biden and Harris are sworn in January 20. And 350 Canada published an open letter supporting the incoming president’s promise to cancel Keystone during his first 100 days in office.
“Canada has the chance to work with the United States to tackle the climate emergency,” and “we shouldn’t waste this opportunity by pushing for a pipeline that people don’t want and the planet can’t handle,” said Canada Campaigns Director Amara Possian. “There is no better time for Justin Trudeau to change his tune on Keystone XL and get on the right side of history.”
Masson, executive fellow with the University of Calgary’s fossil-friendly School of Public Policy, said the Biden administration would likely cancel the permit before next summer’s construction season—early enough in the year, as it turns out, for Natural Law Energy to back out of its deal with TC Energy if the White House proceeds as expected.
Baird, as well, was skeptical about Keystone’s prospects. “I really fear we’re in trouble on Keystone,” he told CP. “This is something he can do with the stroke of a pen, and I’m deeply concerned that he will revoke the presidential permit.”