WASHINGTON – The Keystone XL oil pipeline is on the verge of being approved by the U.S. government, a full eight years and six months after Calgary-based TransCanada Corp. applied for a permit that was beset by political drama.
The Trump administration confirmed Thursday that a response is imminent – the decision will be made within the timeline set out by the White House, meaning it must happen by Monday.
In his first week in office, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that invited TransCanada Corp. to reapply for a permit and promised a decision within 60 days. Since then, the president has repeatedly suggested he will accept the application.
The 60-day timeline in Trump’s executive order expires Monday. That deadline will be met, a State Department official confirmed.
“The U.S. Department of State will be in compliance with the deadline laid out in the Jan. 24, 2017, presidential memorandum regarding construction of the Keystone XL pipeline,” the official said in an email.
The decision is coming Friday – and it will recommend approval, the Associated Press reported. The AP said senior U.S. officials said the decision will come from Undersecretary of State Tom Shannon as his boss, former oil executive Rex Tillerson, has recused himself from the decision.
That decision would clear the way for the White House to formally approve it.
The Obama administration had rejected the pipeline after years of delay, after heated debates within the administration, street protests, and court battles tossing up resistance to the project.
The battle is far from over.
The pipeline company still does not have deals with all the landowners in Nebraska on the proposed route, lacks a permit in that state, and protesters promise they will be back to try thwarting the project.
“It still will be fought tooth and nail,” said Clayton Thomas-Muller in a statement from anti-pipeline group 350.org.
“Any politician siding with the fossil fuel industry on Keystone, be they named Trudeau or Trump, is in for one hell of a fight.”
Keystone XL is one of several ongoing pipeline projects intended to carry oil from Alberta to refineries and international markets; it would carry more than one-fifth of the oil Canada exports to the U.S., transporting it to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.
Previous studies from the State Department have backed the science behind the pipeline. They have concluded that it would not make a significant difference in the growth of Canada’s oilsands, and it would even reduce pollution – because pipelines are cleaner means of transporting oil than trains.
But pipeline opponents point out that the State Department findings carried a more pessimistic caveat: that if no other pipelines got built, and oil prices remained low, then Keystone XL actually might lead to more production and therefore pollution.