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Canada urges Biden not to cancel Keystone XL pipeline on his first day in office

A sign in a field near Bradshaw, Neb., opposes the Keystone XL project.
A sign in a field near Bradshaw, Neb., opposes the Keystone XL project.
(Associated Press)

Top officials in Canada want a chance to make the case for the Keystone XL project amid reports that President-elect Joe Biden will scrap the long-disputed oil pipeline.

Jason Kenney, the premier of Alberta province, said Monday he would seek legal damages if reports are true that Biden plans to cancel the pipeline within hours of taking office Wednesday. Biden’s plan is outlined in transition documents seen by Canadian media outlets.

“We hope President-elect Biden will show respect for Canada and will sit down and at the very least talk to us,” Kenney said.

Biden spokesman Andrew Bates said the transition team had no comment on the pipeline. A person familiar with the matter said the document cited by Canadian news media was a draft slide that was a few weeks old. Despite the timing suggested in the slide, everything on it “may not happen on Day 1,” the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

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The 1,700-mile pipeline would carry roughly 800,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast, passing through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma.

First proposed in 2008, the pipeline has become emblematic of the tensions between economic development and curbing the fossil-fuel emissions that are causing climate change. The Obama administration rejected it, but President Trump revived it and has been a strong supporter. Construction has already started, but a Supreme Court decision last year has delayed work.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised Keystone XL as a top priority when he spoke with Biden in a phone call in November. The project is meant to expand critical oil exports for Canada, which has the third-largest oil reserves in the world.

Trudeau and Biden are close and largely politically aligned, but the pipeline is expected to be an early irritant in their relationship since Biden has said he would cancel it.

“Surely the relationship between Canada and the United States is worth at least having that discussion,” said Kenney, whose province has a financial stake in the pipeline.

After reports surfaced that it would be canceled on the first day of Biden’s presidency, Calgary-based TC Energy Corp. announced late Sunday that it would spend $1.7 billion on a solar-, wind- and battery-powered operating system for the pipeline to make it zero-emission by 2030, and that it would employ only unionized workers.

Canadian Natural Resource Minister Seamus O’Regan said in a statement that the federal government continued to make the case to the U.S. for the pipeline.

“Canadian oil is produced under strong environmental and climate policy frameworks, and this project will not only strengthen the vital Canada-U.S. energy relationship, but create thousands of good jobs for workers on both sides of the border,” he said.

Roland Paris, a former foreign policy advisor to Trudeau, noted that it had been Biden’s position for a long time to cancel Keystone XL.

“Still, he should recognize that peremptorily revoking the permit without first giving Canada a chance to make its case wouldn’t exactly send a signal of renewed friendship that he has promised towards America’s closest allies,” Paris tweeted.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s long silence came when a reporter asked him to comment on Trump’s threat to use the armed forces to quell violence.

Robin Rorick, a vice president of the American Petroleum Institute, a trade group for the oil and gas industry, said Keystone XL had been through 10 years of extensive environmental reviews.

“Thousands of union workers are already a part of this responsible and sustainable project,” Rorick said in a statement. “We urge President[-elect] Biden to stand up for the thousands of good-paying union jobs tied to Keystone XL and ensure local communities across the country have access to the affordable, reliable energy that’s needed to power the nation’s economic recovery.”


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