State Dept to Approve Keystone Pipeline 16 Months After Obama Blocked Construction

Large sections of Keystone Pipeline in Texas
Large sections of Keystone Pipeline in Texas / AP
March 23, 2017

The Trump administration is expected to approve the cross-border permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline by Monday, reversing former President Obama's decision 16 months ago to block its construction.

The State Department will move forward with the 1,200-mile pipeline project, Politico reported Thursday. Undersecretary for Political Affairs Tom Shannon plans to sign the permit by the end of Monday, the final day of the 60-day timeframe President Trump ordered in January to finalize "any conditions on issuance of the permit."

Construction of the pipeline, which would ship crude oil from Canada's western oil sands region to refineries on the Gulf Coast, became a politically charged issue during the Obama administration. The project sparked major lobbying efforts from environmental groups, which argued it would be too damaging to the environment, and supporters of the oil industry, who said it would have big economic benefits.

Developer TransCanada has tried to build the pipeline for the past several years.

Obama rejected the construction of the Keystone pipeline in November 2015, arguing the project would undermine America's position as a global leader on climate change.

The EPA has said the pipeline would impact global warming, while a U.S. government report from 2013 found that the project will do little harm to the environment.

Trump signed an executive order in January to move forward with the project, inviting TransCanada to re-submit its application. He has pledged to have all steel used for the pipeline come from the United States.

"If people want to build pipelines in the United States, they should use American steel and they should build it and create it right here," Trump said Monday at a rally in Louisville, Ky. "That pipeline is going to be manufactured right here."

TransCanada has said about half of the steel for the Keystone project will come from the U.S., according to Politico.

TransCanada still needs to overcome regulations at the state level and delays from landowners in Nebraska, through which the pipeline will pass, who are unhappy with the company's use of eminent domain.