Trump Administration Approves Construction of Keystone XL Pipeline

Supporters say that the pipeline will bolster job development in the U.S., but opponents worry about the project’s environmental impact

Keystone XL
Miles of pipe slated for the Keystone XL stacked in a field near Ripley, Oklahoma after construction stalled in 2012. Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Four days after his inauguration, Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at reviewing the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. Both projects had been met with heated protests from environmentalists, and both had been stalled by the Obama administration. On Friday, the Trump administration issued a permit to proceed with construction on one of the pipelines, the Keystone XL, Clifford Krauss reports for the New York Times.

If completed, the Keystone XL pipeline would transport 830,000 barrels of heavy crude oil from Canadian oil sands and North Dakota to Nebraska. There, the Keystone XL will connect with existing pipelines and carry the oil to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast. TransCanada, a Calgary-based firm, has been trying to win approval for the pipeline for several years.

According to Brady Dennis from The Washington Post, the Trump administration reviewed TransCanada’s application following the president’s executive order. In a statement, the State Department said that in approving the pipeline, it had “considered a range of factors, including but not limited to foreign policy; energy security; environmental, cultural and economic impact; and compliance with applicable law and policy.” Ultimately, the State Department determined that the pipeline “would serve the national interest.” 

Supporters of the pipeline say that the construction project will bolster job development in the United States. A 2014 review by the State Department found that the pipeline would create some 42,100 temporary jobs during the projected two-year construction period, and 50 jobs (35 permanent) once it is built. The review also found that the project would provide a total of $2 billion in economic benefits, and the pipeline has attracted the support of several labor unions.

But since TransCanada first applied for a building permit in 2008, the Keystone XL pipeline has been met with dissent at every turn. According to Elliott C. McLaughlin of CNN, environmentalists, local residents, and indigenous tribes worried that the pipeline would pollute the Ogallala Aquifer, a huge underground water source that provides water to farms in eight states. TransCanada responded by shifting the pipeline’s path eastward, Dennis writes for the Washington Post, but opponents are still concerned about the project’s environmental impact.

The pipeline will carry crude oil from both Canada and North Dakota. The oil from Canada will be extracted from oil sands—a process that emits 18 percent more greenhouse gases than conventional crude oil extraction. In 2015, then-President Obama rejected the proposed pipeline, saying that “America is now a global leader when it comes to taking serious action to fight climate change, and frankly, approving this project would have undercut that leadership.”

Opponents also maintain that the pipeline is unnecessary, Krauss writes in the Times. When it was first proposed, the United States was very much dependent on oil from the Middle East, but domestic production has nearly doubled in recent years. Additionally, the advent of energy-efficient and electric cars has raised questions about whether or not the demand for oil will remain consistently high in the future.

Though the Keystone XL now has the backing of the White House, it seems likely that it will continue to be met with resistance. Krauss reports that environmental activists are already collaborating with local groups to block the pipeline’s construction.

Get the latest stories in your inbox every weekday.