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A Push for Trump to Prioritize the Keystone XL Pipeline
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A Push for Trump to Prioritize the Keystone XL Pipeline

With the Trump transition underway, many Republicans and GOP senators are hopeful that a Trump administration will revive the Keystone XL pipeline proposal, which has been sitting dormant for the last six years.

The pipeline, operated by TransCanada, is to run from Hardisty, Alberta, to Steele City, Nebraska—a total of 1,169 miles between both countries. Keystone XL is an extension phase of Keystone, the pipeline that is currently running.

TransCanada projects that the construction and maintenance of KXL will create around 42,100 “direct and indirect jobs.” This will add approximately $3.4 billion to U.S. GDP. Local economies of areas the pipeline runs through will benefit, along with the national economy. Through the pipeline, North American oil will cost less per barrel than imported oil. This should result in lower gas prices, as America’s dependency on foreign markets decreases. KXL is more sustainable than importing oil.

The first step to building the pipeline is attaining a presidential permit, which Obama denied twice – once in 2012 and again in 2015 for insufficient environmental reports. The Canadian National Energy Board (NEB), though, approved it in 2011, and a Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS) was issued in 2014. Obama’s rejection did not stifle TransCanada’s attempts to attain the permit, however, as the company took legal action through NAFTA, and later commenced Constitutional litigation against the Obama administration.

The Senate and the House passed a bill in February of 2015 that approved Keystone XL, but Obama vetoed it only a few weeks later.

“Trump has been on board with the pipeline proposal… but on one condition.”

Today, the presidential transition has left both Americans and Canadians hopeful for a restored proposal of the pipeline. Specifically, Republican government officials hope the Trump administration will prioritize the pipeline to ensure its swift progression. Last week, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky urged Trump to make the pipeline a priority when he takes office this January.

Trump has been on board with the pipeline proposal since the start of his campaign, but on one condition: America should receive “a significant piece of the profits.” This has been controversial, as American oil only contributes around 8% of the pipeline. TransCanada shows its willingness to compromise with Trump, as the company said, “We are evaluating ways to engage the new administration.”

Canadians have backed the project since its proposal. Former Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, was a consistent advocate for Keystone XL, but because of Obama’s continued rejection of the proposal, did not oversee its authorization during his time in office. In a Facebook post congratulating President-elect Trump, Harper said that “there is much to do, including moving ahead with KXL.”

“According to TransCanada, their approach is as environmentally-friendly as possible.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also supports the pipeline project, but along with Trump, Trudeau has conditions. In a speech made back in 2015, Trudeau emphasized the importance of maintaining his current environmental goals to reduce climate change, and if the pipeline does not align with these goals, he will not support it. He continues to remain positive about a compromise though, and said, “pretending that we have to choose between the economy and the environment is as harmful as it is wrong.”

An environmental compromise is feasible. According to TransCanada, their approach is as environmentally-friendly as possible. They have taken strides to have little impact on the local areas through which the pipeline runs through. One area of concern is the possibility of negative impacts on water supplies, to which the company responds that they will, “work to avoid, minimize or mitigate them.”

To accomplish this, TransCanada has implemented specialized technologies to maintain their environmental responsibility, the details of which have been published on their website. Measures will be taken to preserve endangered species’ habitats as well.

Environmental issues are of seemingly little importance to the residents of areas the pipeline runs through. According to surveys by the company, most local residents approve of the project, and TransCanada has “secured voluntary agreements with 100 per cent of landowners in Montana and South Dakota and 84 per cent of landowners in Nebraska.”

The reason many residents approve and give voluntary support is likely because of the benefits they receive in their counties. According to their official website, the company paid around $37 million in property taxes in 2012 alone, and around $44 million in 2013 – both of which derived directly from KXL. These taxes benefit the areas by addressing “local infrastructure needs like roads, bridges, hospitals and other facilities.” The pipeline has had massive local support in light of these contributions.

TransCanada’s promise to support environmental standards and their general willingness to compromise with new U.S. administration may be all the company needs to green light the project. Keystone XL is a priority for many Canadians and Americans, and its advancement is more likely than ever.

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