Pipeline project spent years in limbo
After more than a decade of battles, the Keystone XL Pipeline is officially dead. In a move celebrated by environmentalists and Indigenous activists and decried by the oil industry, TC Energy announced it would shut down the project. The move was widely expected after the Biden administration revoked the project’s permit upon taking office in January. But it had seemed out before when then-president Obama blocked it in 2015 only for Keystone XL to get a new life when the Trump administration reversed course in 2017.
Starting in Alberta, Canada, the pipeline was to carry oil extracted from tar sands to the refineries along the Gulf Coast in Texas. Oil produced in the U.S. was to be added in Montana, with the pipeline then running through Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. About 300 miles of pipeline on the $8 billion project had been built before Biden’s order in January. Keystone XL would have carried 830,000 barrels’ worth of crude oil each day.
Though proponents of Keystone XL claimed it would provide thousands of union-paying jobs, the vast majority of those were temporary. State Department analysis put the number of permanent jobs around 50.
“Once the proposed Project enters service, operations would require approximately 50 total employees in the United States: 35 permanent employees and 15 temporary contractors,” its report concluded. “This small number would result in negligible impacts on population, housing, and public services in the proposed Project area.”
Biden (and Obama before him) argued that construction and operation of the pipeline would undermine U.S. efforts to be a leader in combatting climate change, while Keystone XL’s supporters said it would bolster energy independence. The main point of environmental contention was in Nebraska, where the pipeline would cut through the Ogallala Aquifer, source of groundwater for millions of people in the Plains States. A different TC Energy pipeline spilled 383,000 thousand gallons of oil into North Dakota wetlands in 2019. With Keystone XL finished, the fight turns now to the Dakota Access and Line 3 pipeline projects in a struggle over the future of American energy.