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Biden plans to block Keystone XL pipeline with day 1 order, documents show

Click to play video 'Calgary political scientist analyzes what it means should Biden cancel Keystone XL' Calgary political scientist analyzes what it means should Biden cancel Keystone XL
Global News spoke to Calgary political scientist Duane Bratt after reports surfaced saying president-elect Joe Biden will scrap the Keystone XL Pipeline on Day 1 of his administration – Jan 17, 2021

One of Joe Biden‘s first actions once he becomes U.S. president Wednesday will be to slam the door yet again on Canada’s politically fraught Keystone XL pipeline expansion, transition documents suggest.

The documents, seen by The Canadian Press, feature a to-do list for inauguration day that includes signing an executive order to rescind the Keystone XL construction permit granted in 2019 by predecessor Donald Trump.

They also suggest that despite its best efforts, Canada has failed to convince the incoming administration of the virtues of importing fossil-fuel energy from a friendly ally and trading partner with similar climate change goals.

“Roll back Trump enviro actions via EO (including rescind Keystone XL pipeline permit),” the document reads.

Read more: Biden’s Keystone XL decision could be ‘tough’ moment for Canada, U.S. ties: senator

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Click to play video 'Green party leader says Canada shouldn’t push Biden admin to reverse Keystone XL pipeline cancellation' Green party leader says Canada shouldn’t push Biden admin to reverse Keystone XL pipeline cancellation
Green party leader says Canada shouldn’t push Biden admin to reverse Keystone XL pipeline cancellation – Jan 18, 2021

Other entries under the “Climate” heading include, “Rejoin the Paris Agreement” and “Announce date for U.S.-hosted Leaders’ Climate Summit.”

Campaign officials promised in May that if elected, Biden would cancel the $8-billion US cross-border project, but neither the timeline nor the extent of Biden’s own commitment to the promise was clear until now.

The controversial, on-again, off-again pipeline expansion, owned by Calgary-based TC Energy, would ferry up to 830,000 additional barrels a day of diluted bitumen from Alberta’s oilsands to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Government officials quietly refused to rule out the possibility that there might still be time to change the Biden administration’s mind.

Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., has argued for months that the project is not the same one President Barack Obama rejected in 2015 — an argument she reiterated in a statement Sunday.

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“Not only has the project itself changed significantly since it was first proposed, but Canada’s oilsands production has also changed significantly,” Hillman said.

Click to play video 'How will the PM preserve the Keystone XL pipeline?' How will the PM preserve the Keystone XL pipeline?
How will the PM preserve the Keystone XL pipeline? – Dec 25, 2020

“Per-barrel oilsands (greenhouse gas) emissions have dropped 31 per cent since 2000, and innovation will continue to drive progress.”

The federal Liberal government has also beefed up its climate plan in an effort to exceed the current target for cutting greenhouse gases by 2030, and to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, she added.

Ever since May, Canadian officials have been advocating for a cross-border discussion on climate and energy that would make room for both building the project and reducing emissions at the same time.

“Keystone XL fits within Canada’s climate plan,” Hillman said, adding that it promises good union jobs in both countries “at a time when our economic recovery is a top priority.”

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“Underpinned by a crucial and long-standing trade and security partnership, there is no better partner for the U.S. on climate action than Canada as we work together for green transition.”

Click to play video 'Trudeau welcomes end of 2020, predicts good news for Canada’s foreign relations' Trudeau welcomes end of 2020, predicts good news for Canada’s foreign relations
Trudeau welcomes end of 2020, predicts good news for Canada’s foreign relations – Dec 16, 2020

Where Ottawa was clinging to hope, however, Alberta appeared to be girding for a fight.

“We renew our call on the incoming administration to show respect for Canada as the United States’ most important trading partner and strategic ally,” Premier Jason Kenney said in a statement.

Cancelling the project would “kill jobs” in both countries, “weaken” cross-border ties and “undermine U.S. national security” by making the country more dependent than ever on oil imports from OPEC countries, he said.

“Should the incoming U.S. administration abrogate the Keystone XL permit, Alberta will work with TC Energy to use all legal avenues available to protect its interest in the project.”

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Read more: Keystone XL not the same pipeline project John Kerry nixed in 2015: Canada’s U.S. envoy

In a statement Sunday, Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley said that the risk surrounding the pipeline “has been obvious for some time,” and criticized Kenney’s spending on the project.

“While there’s no question that the successful completion of KXL can be beneficial to Alberta’s economy, the Premier has never come clean on the economic and risk analysis associated with his massive gamble,” read Notley’s statement.

“With KXL facing critical moments in the coming days, Albertans deserve to know exactly how much of their money is at stake.”

Click to play video 'Former energy executive hopes Biden well negotiate with Canada over Keystone' Former energy executive hopes Biden well negotiate with Canada over Keystone
Former energy executive hopes Biden well negotiate with Canada over Keystone – Jan 18, 2021

 

Biden campaign officials did not immediately respond to media queries Sunday.

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TC Energy, however, confirmed an ambitious plan to spend $1.7 billion US on a solar, wind and battery-powered operating system for the pipeline to ensure it is zero-emission by 2030, and to rely exclusively on union labour — all of it clearly aimed at winning Biden’s favour.

Click to play video 'There is a very, very strong argument for Keystone pipeline regardless of who the U.S. president is: O’Regan' There is a very, very strong argument for Keystone pipeline regardless of who the U.S. president is: O’Regan
There is a very, very strong argument for Keystone pipeline regardless of who the U.S. president is: O’Regan – Nov 1, 2020

“Since it was initially proposed more than 10 years ago, the Keystone XL project has evolved with the needs of North America, our communities and the environment,” project president Richard Prior said in a release.

“We are confident that Keystone XL is not only the safest and most reliable method to transport oil to markets, but the initiatives announced today also ensure it will have the lowest environmental impact of an oil pipeline in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.”

Federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole echoed Kenney’s concerns, describing the U.S. decision as counter to economic recovery efforts and urging Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to sit down at the earliest opportunity.

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“I call on the prime minister to immediately reach out to the incoming U.S. administration to stop this from happening and stand up for working Canadians across Canada,” O’Toole said.

Click to play video 'Trudeau says his government ‘very well-aligned’ with incoming Biden administration' Trudeau says his government ‘very well-aligned’ with incoming Biden administration
Trudeau says his government ‘very well-aligned’ with incoming Biden administration – Dec 16, 2020

“I also call upon the incoming U.S. administration to meet with our prime minister and affected workers prior to making this decision.”

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe echoed the call for a meeting between Biden and Trudeau, saying the project is “critical to North American energy security.”

“While I am urging the prime minister to leverage his relationship with Mr. Biden, Saskatchewan will continue exercising our contacts in Washington D.C. to advocate for the continuation of this project that clearly benefits both of our nations,” he said.

Some 200 kilometres of pipe have already been installed for the expansion, including across the Canada-U. S. border, and construction has begun on pump stations in Alberta and several U.S. states.

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Click to play video 'Trudeau says he’s already had conversations with U.S. President-elect Biden’s team on Keystone XL' Trudeau says he’s already had conversations with U.S. President-elect Biden’s team on Keystone XL
Trudeau says he’s already had conversations with U.S. President-elect Biden’s team on Keystone XL – Nov 18, 2020

Biden was vice-president in 2015 when Obama initially rejected Keystone XL for fear it would worsen climate change. Trump approved it again in 2019.

The Biden campaign team appeared to slam the door on the expansion in May with an unequivocal statement committing the president-elect to “proudly” sign an order that would “stop it for good.”

But observers and experts alike continued to hold out hope, even after Biden named John Kerry — the climate hawk who as secretary of state recommended that Obama reject the permit — as a special presidential envoy on climate change.

Read more: Feds laying groundwork to ensure Biden hears Canada’s priorities, ambassador says

The news drew praise, however, from Biden’s former rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders.

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“The Keystone pipeline is & always has been a disaster,” he said on Twitter. “With all of the major crises facing America, we must never lose sight of the most existential threat facing our planet: climate change.”

Environmental groups also cheered Biden’s decision and encouraged federal leaders in Canada to follow suit.

“It’s time for Canadian politicians to stop beating this dead horse and get on with building a clean energy future,” said Keith Stewart, Greenpeace Canada’s senior energy strategist.

“The Biden administration offers us a fresh start on addressing the climate crisis with a willing partner, so let’s not blow it by pushing pipelines.”

With files from Global News