Alberta gears up for another legal battle over Keystone XL after Biden vows to pull permissions


If Joe Biden is elected President and follows through with his threat to stop construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in the U.S. out of Canada, he’ll likely have to take on some of the Canadian government. That’s because Jason Kenney, Premier of Alberta reacted with this weeks Biden announcement indicating he will go to court and file a free-trade lawsuit alongside TC Energy Corp.

As the Calgary Herald reported, construction work on the US$14.4-billion Keystone XL pipeline began in April but fresh opposition from the U.S. Democratic presidential nominee could scuttle the long-delayed pipeline once again.

Biden’s election campaign signalled over the weekend that, if the former U.S. vice-president takes the White House this November, he would withdraw presidential permits for the Alberta to U.S. Gulf Coast pipeline Keystone XL.

Kenney said at a news conference Tuesday the province “would use every legal means at our disposal to protect our fiscal and economic interests.”

A spokesman for TC Energy, the Calgary-based pipeline proponent, said in an emailed statement that no other pipeline project “in the history of the industry has been studied more than Keystone XL.

“More than a half-dozen Environmental Impact Studies have been done on Keystone XL over the past 10 years, including the latest U.S. Department of State (Federal Environmental Impact Statement), which was released in December of 2019,” Terry Cunha said.

Legal scholars, however, said that whoever wins the 2020 U.S. presidential election wields tremendous power over the fate of the Keystone XL project, which was approved by a presidential order under U.S. President Donald Trump rather than by Congress. As a result, a future president could theoretically rescind the permit and even force builder TC Energy Corp. to dig up and remove the pipe.

Keystone XL has become a “symbol” of the climate change debate in the United States and announcing opposition to the project is one way for Biden and the Democrats to build support among key liberal voters ahead of the November 2020 election, said Richard Masson, chief commercial officer at oilsands-focused upgrading technology company Fractal Systems Inc. and an executive fellow at the University of Calgary School of Public Policy.

“It’s become shorthand that you’re an environmentalist if you don’t like Keystone XL,” Masson said, adding that he’s not surprised the Biden campaign announced its opposition to the project, but it does raise the known risks facing the pipeline.

“My view would be that the only reason Alberta got involved was because of this risk,” he said.

In late March, Kenney announced a $1.5 billion investment and $6 billion in loan guarantees for the Keystone XL project to ensure TC Energy would begin building the project in April. Kenney said at the time he considers the pipeline to connect the oilsands with U.S. Gulf Coast refineries “critical to our economic future.”

The company has since completed the portion of the pipeline that crosses the Canada-U.S. border, a critical stretch that required the presidential permit granted by U.S. President Donald Trump and now threatened by Biden.

The Alberta government’s decision to invest in Keystone XL earlier this year will force any government in Washington, D.C. to confront thousands of workers building the cross-border pipeline when the new presidential term begins next February, Kenney said.

“I think as we hopefully begin to emerge from this pandemic, the public in both the United States and Canada will be increasingly focused on jobs and the economy and that is why this project needs to proceed,” Kenney said, noting the project is being built by “thousands of good blue-collar union members.”

TC Energy’s Cunha said the company wouldn’t forecast exactly how many workers would be in the field building Keystone XL during the November 2020 election but said, “during peak levels, we would employ close to 13,000 individuals,” including 10,400 in the U.S. and 2,800 in Canada.

Source: Calgary Herald

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