President-elect Joe Biden may cancel the permit for the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline during his first days in office, capping one of the most fraught environmental battles in recent political history, accordant to several media reports Sunday.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation first reported Sunday night that the Biden transition team may move to cancel the permit for the oil project via executive action, potentially on his first day in office. Sources told the outlet the Biden team had drafted an internal planning document with a slate of early executive actions meant to reverse environmental policies from the Trump era. Canada’s CTV and Reuters later confirmed the CBC’s reporting.
The Keystone XL pipeline has been deeply controversial for more than a decade and faced a litany of legal challenges. If completed, it would carry up to 830,000 barrels of crude oil from Canada’s tar sands into Nebraska, where it would then be ferried to refineries along the Gulf of Mexico. Backers have touted the effort as a job creator, but environmental groups have lambasted the pipeline as a leaking contributor to climate change.
The Biden transition team did not respond to a request for comment. The president-elect had previously said he was opposed to the project and his advisers said he would “proudly” move to block it once more.
Reports of the move, however, quickly drew condemnation from officials in Canada. Jason Kenney, the premier of the province of Alberta, said he was “deeply concerned” by the reports, saying doing so would “kill jobs on both sides of the border” and “weaken the critically important Canada-U.S. relationship.”
“As President-elect Biden’s green jobs plan acknowledges, Americans will consume millions of barrels of oil per day for years to come,” Kenney said in a statement. “It is in perfect keeping with his plan that the United States energy needs should be met by a country that takes the challenges of climate change seriously.”
Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., Kirsten Hillman, told Reuters the country would continue to lobby for the project, saying: “There is no better partner for the U.S. on climate action than Canada as we work together for green transition.”
The potential move was hailed by the environment group 350.org on Sunday night who said it was “a momentous sign that he is listening, taking action, and making good on his promises to people and the planet.”
“By ensuring that KeystoneXL is reversed, Biden is standing on the side of tribal nations, farmers, ranchers, and many communities whose livelihoods would be wrecked by this dirty pipeline,” Kendall Mackey, a campaign manager for the group, said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the administration to ensure that real climate action that transitions us off fossil fuels and to a just renewable energy economy is a cornerstone of Biden’s legacy over the next four years.”
President Donald Trump had touted the Keystone XL project as a major tenet of his administration, reversing an Obama-era ban on the project in 2017 over the outcry of environmental groups who said it would only stymie efforts to rein in climate change. Then-President Barack Obama had banned the pipeline in 2015.
The future Biden administration will be full of heavy hitters when it comes to environmental policy. The president-elect announced a slate of respected staffers last week to spearhead green initiatives and tackle climate change.