The Trump administration issued a presidential permit to build the Canada-to-U.S. Keystone XL oil pipeline, the State Department said on Friday, drawing outrage from environmental groups.
Senior State Department official Tom Shannon issued the permit to TransCanda Corp for the US$8 billion project, which projects to carry more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil from Canada to U.S. networks and refineries further south.
"We will resist these projects with our allies across the country and across borders, and we will continue to build the future the world wants to see," said Diana Best, a Greenpeace climate campaign specialist.
The 875-mile project was previously blocked by former President Barack Obama before President Donald Trump resurrected the pipeline through an executive order in January, boasting that it would help boost U.S.-based jobs. The U.S. State Department says that it will only create 50 permanent jobs, despite earlier claims by Trump estimating 28,000.
"This dirty and dangerous export pipeline would run right through America’s heartland, threatening our water, our land, and our climate — all to pad the profits of a foreign oil company,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president of government affairs at the League of Conservation Voters. “This pipeline is all risk and no reward, and we will continue to fight it every step of the way.”
While the presidential order is a key step for the project's future, approval from state regulators is still needed and the project could face a number of legal challenges. The presidential permit was needed because the pipeline crosses an international border.
Obama had previously criticized the project for contributing to global warming and argued that it would not improve fuel prices for motorists.
“Ultimately, if we’re going to prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them and release more dangerous pollution into the sky,” Obama said when he rejected the pipeline application in November 2015.
Policy analyst from the Natural Resources Defense Council, Josh Axelrod, labeled it “a zombie project,” adding that "it remains an environmental catastrophe waiting to happen: a risk to our shared global climate, our precious fresh water sources, and our farms and ranches across America's heartland.”
“We cannot let the Trump administration, supported by the Trudeau government, undo that progress. An alliance of Indigenous and climate action communities stopped KXL before, and we will do it again,” vowed Greenpeace Canada in a statement.
In January, Trump also called for the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline, which has seen an ongoing resistance and occupation movement from Native Americans and environmentalists.