TC energy has suspended advancement of the Keystone XL pipeline after President Joe Biden issued an executive order on Wednesday revoking the embattled project’s existing Presidential permit for the U.S.-Canada border crossing.
Biden’s order follows through on campaign promises to reverse course on the pipeline project, which has been fighting for air more than a decade now. The Obama-Biden administration had refused it a permit, but former President Donald Trump had invited the company to resubmit its application and rapidly greenlighted it. It ran aground, however, in the Ninth Circuit after multiple lawsuits were filed by environmental groups targeting both the presidential permit and the pipeline’s water crossing permits.
Biden’s decision will affect thousands of union jobs, TC Energy said in a statement released shortly after Biden’s announcement, about 4,000 of them in Montana.
“The decision overturns an unprecedented, comprehensive regulatory process that lasted more than a decade and repeatedly concluded the pipeline would transport much needed energy in an environmentally responsible way while enhancing North American energy security,” TC Energy said. “The action would directly lead to the layoff of thousands of union workers and negatively impact ground-breaking industry commitments to use renewable energy as well as historic equity partnerships with indigenous communities.”
In a bid to marshal support for the project, Keystone’s developer had pledged in the waning days of former President Donald Trump’s administration to use renewable power sources to operate the 2,000-mile pipeline system, which would have started in Alberta in western Canada and ended in Texas.
The company had also pledged a few months before that to hire union laborers, signing agreements with major unions to that effect, and it had promised to eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions from the pipeline’s operations by 2030.
Montana Petroleum Association President Alan Olson said such an action was not unexpected. and that he expects the oil and gas industry is in for more pain as the Biden administration unfolds.
“In the next four years we are going to see attempts to roll back a lot of the policy decisions made under the Trump administration,” Olson said. “We expect drastically increased regulations to please the progressive base of the Democratic party.”
Olson said the industry has already seen much opposition from the “progressive wing” of Congress.
“I’m afraid a lot of that is going to roll over into this administration,” he said. “It’s going to make it tough for our people to operate whether we are talking about keystone, Dakota Access, oil and gas producers, or our refinery sector — just across the board.”
Oil companies have already been taking steps to prepare for a Biden administration, Olson added. That has been most evident, perhaps, in the flurry of last-minute leasing of federal minerals.
North Dakota Department of Resources Director Lynn Helms in August of last year, meanwhile, had noted that North Dakota had more rigs than it might havve had during the pandemic because energy companies were drilling on federal lands ahead of the 2020 election. Biden had said during his campaign that he did not want to allow new drilling or new hydraulic fracturing on public lands.
Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Association, said it is a disappointing decision, and reflects the increasingly difficult climate vital energy infrastructure faces.
“Stopping a project like that in its tracks after all the work done and how many years of delays, it just really makes no sense,” Ness said. “And it is crazy to think that stopping pipelines has become a battleground.”
Pipelines, Ness and Olson have both pointed out, are the safest method for transporting crude oil. Without them, transport will still happen, but it will be by rail and by truck. That causes a lot more emissions, and is more likely than pipelines to lead to spills, due to the potential for collisions and other accidents.