Pipeline Politics
At Long Last, Keystone Gets the Federal Green Light

The U.S. State department approved the Keystone XL pipeline, a project that would connect Canada’s oil sands with America’s Gulf Coast refineries, but that has been trapped in regulatory limbo for what now feels like an eternity. The FT reports:

TransCanada, the company seeking to build the pipeline, said in a statement on Friday that the US state department had signed and issued a presidential permit authorising construction.

The project still needs to secure approvals from the state of Nebraska, and sign contracts with customers. It will also face continued legal challenges and protests from environmentalists.

Russ Girling, TransCanada’s chief executive, called the permit a “significant milestone” in a statement on Friday.

Four years ago the State department conducted an environmental analysis of the proposed pipeline, and found it wouldn’t have a significant effect on global emissions—the Albertan oil it would be transporting would be coming out of the ground one way or another, State (and others) reasoned, so the pipeline itself wasn’t a dealbreaker. That seemed to pave the way for a green light from the White House, but the Obama administration found itself beguiled by the green politics surrounding Keystone and kicked the can on down the road.

Enter Trump. Our new president campaigned on a swift approval of the pipeline, and we’re seeing that follow through now.

There are still a few hurdles left for Keystone to clear—environmentalist-backed lawsuits and some eminent domain proceedings in Nebraska—but this should be enough to propel the project past the finish line. We say “should” because, at this point, we’re starting to think this thing might actually be cursed (readers might remember when we predicted two years ago that 2015 would bring an end to this saga once and for all).

If Trump can push Keystone through, Canada will get an important path to market for its surging oil sands crude, and we’ll all get to move past this political sideshow that through some odd twist of fate has dominated the environmentalist agenda for the past eight years. This was always a rather banal piece of infrastructure, and the sooner we see it in our rear-view mirror, the better.

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