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Keystone XL Is Back From the Dead, And Environmentalists Are Ready to Fight

Farnia Fekri

Farnia Fekri

The Trump administration has issued a presidential permit for construction to begin.

The Trump administration has officially given the go-ahead to build the Keystone XL pipeline, TransCanada announced on Friday, as a presidential permit has been issued by the US State Department. In the wake of the news, environmental groups are readying for a fight.

The pipeline was first proposed in 2008, but then-President Barack Obama officially rejected it in 2015, saying it wouldn't serve US interests. The move followed massive protests, as the project became a focal point for environmental activists. Donald Trump and members of his administration have called into question the well-established science of climate change.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, meanwhile, has shown himself to be friendly to pipelines. Last year he approved two projects, and has come out in favour of Trump's push to get Keystone XL off the ground again, partly because of the jobs and better economic prospects it could bring to Alberta, which is hurting from low oil prices. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, too, supports the project.

TransCanada CEO Russ Girling called the State Department's long-expected decision a "milestone" for the pipeline. "We greatly appreciate President Trump's Administration for reviewing and approving this important initiative," he said in a statement.

The pipeline, which would carry more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil per day from Canada to the US, still faces permit challenges in several states. For now, the announcement ends the $15-billion NAFTA lawsuit that TransCanada launched against the US last year.

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Environmental groups are already promising they'll fight the now-revived pipeline. Rhea Suh, president of the non-profit Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement that the group will use "every tool in the kit" to block the project.

"This decision is far from the final word on Keystone XL," said May Boeve of 350.org, which led major protests against the pipeline in the leadup to its rejection by the Obama administration, in a press release on Friday. "The same communities who defeated this pipeline before—Indigenous leaders, landowners, farmers, and grassroots activists—are ready to fight again. This is bigger than one pipeline."

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