President Biden has completely halted construction on the Keystone XL Pipeline, and revoked its permissions. The Pipeline, first proposed in 2008 and rejected by Obama’s administration in 2015 before Trump’s administration going through with it anyway in 2017, would have funneled just under a million barrels of oil a day from Canada, moving from Montana to Texas. This is a massive win for environmental activists, who have long decried the program for its lack of safety and its use of bringing an enormous amount of fossil fuels into the USA. However, this decision did end approximately 1,000 jobs according to the Associated Press, and has left workers perturbed.
The construction of this project was always controversial, as it shuttled gigantic quantities of oil into the country, and many protestors felt the project lacked adequate safety provisions. The latter actually turned out to be true, as construction of the pipeline directly caused a 400,000 gallon oil spill in 2019. Environmental groups across the affected states, as well as the nation, have rejoiced over the ending of such a large and dangerous fossil fuel import initiative, and many hope to see this replaced with a clean alternative.
Detractors of the project’s shutdown include conservative union heads of impacted workers and Republicans in these same states. In a specific instance, Republican Governor Pete Ricketts of Nebraska claimed the ending of this project would have lessened American reliance on foreign oil. This claim is false, however, as all the oil would have come from Alberta, Canada, so the ending of the Keystone Pipeline has also prevented an increased reliance on foreign oil for energy.
While the pipeline’s closure has caused a noticeable loss of jobs, and unions have a right to criticize the decision for hurting their members, not all union members are satisfied with their representation. NPR reports that one of the biggest unions working on Keystone XL, Pipeliners Local 798, was sued by its Black members for discrimination while construction of the Pipeline was underway. The reporter also points out that the organization has a history of sexism.
Additionally, Canadian companies who had started the project, as well as the Canadian government, have been extremely apprehensive about this decision. Jason Kenney, the Premier (the Canadian equivalent of a governor) of Alberta, where the Pipeline would have started, said: “It is a[n] insult directed at the United State[s’] most important ally and trading partner on day one of a new administration.” It is important to point out here, though, that this outrage comes after the U.S. initially refused the project under the Obama administration, only to be approved by Trump and again reverted by President Biden. It was certainly never out of the question that the country would revert back to its original decision.
This does not end all of the oil pipeline projects in the region, though. The Dakota Access Pipeline, infamous for damaging and threatening to poison Native American land, is still underway. This project, which would move American oil en masse from North Dakota to Illinois, would run through or threaten sensitive wildlife and habitats, as well as infringe on Native American sovereignty.
Following the end of the Keystone XL Pipeline, a large group of celebrities and Hollywood elites penned an open letter calling for President Biden to also end the Dakota Access Pipeline. While President Biden himself has never made a public stance on the DAPL, Vice President Harris has been openly against it in the past, providing some hope that this project will also be canceled. The White House has said it is taking time in making that decision and has not made any public statement leaning one way or the other. However, even the KXL alone closing is a huge win for activists and the environment at large.
Featured image courtesy of Macy Miller/ Quaker Campus.