A $9bn oil pipeline that became a symbol of the rising political clout of climate advocates and a flashpoint in US-Canada relations was officially canceled on Wednesday.
Keystone XL, which was proposed in 2008 to bring oil from Canada’s western tar sands to US refiners, was halted by owner TC Energy after Joe Biden this year revoked a key permit needed for a US stretch of the 1,200-mile project.
North American oil pipelines, including Dakota Access and Enbridge Line 3, have faced steady opposition from environmental groups, which are concerned about spills and want to slow any expansion of oil production.
“This is a landmark moment in the fight against the climate crisis,” said Jared Margolis, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’re hopeful that the Biden administration will continue to shift this country in the right direction by opposing fossil fuel projects.”
The Keystone XL pipeline was expected to carry 830,000 barrels per day of Alberta oil sands crude to Nebraska, but the project was delayed for the past 12 years due to opposition from U.S. landowners, Native American tribes and environmentalists.
Parts of the line were completed, but as opposition to the Keystone project and the broader climate impacts of fossil fuels mounted, the pipeline became a high-profile point of contention. U.S. officials stalled the regulatory process a decade ago, with former president Barack Obama effectively ending the construction process in 2015.
The Donald Trump administration reversed the decision, but President Joe Biden revoked a special permit issued for the Keystone project on his first day in office in January – a turning point noted by TC Energy as key to their decision to end construction.
“The United States and the world face a climate crisis. That crisis must be met with action on a scale and at a speed commensurate with the need to avoid setting the world on a dangerous, potentially catastrophic, climate trajectory,” said Biden in his revocation of the project permit. “Leaving the Keystone XL pipeline permit in place would not be consistent with my administration’s economic and climate imperatives.”
TC Energy owns the existing Keystone oil pipeline, which runs from Alberta to the U.S. oil storage hub in Cushing, Oklahoma, and to the U.S. Gulf, along with a power and storage business. It pledged to ensure a safe termination of the project.
“We remain disappointed and frustrated with the circumstances surrounding the Keystone XL project, including the cancellation of the presidential permit for the pipeline’s border crossing,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said in a statement.
“After more than ten years we have finally defeated an oil and gas giant!” said the Indigenous Environmental Network, based in the U.S. state of Minnesota. “From the Tar Sands to the Gulf we stood in hand-in-hand to protect the next seven generations of life, the water and our communities. This is not the end, but merely the beginning of further victories. We know this in our hearts.”
And Bill McKibben, the globally prominent clean-energy advocate and founder of 350.org, noted how far the movement has come since the first protests against the pipeline.
“Just a reminder that ten years ago this summer, when mass arrests began in the Keystone fight, 93 percent of ‘insiders’ said the project would be approved,” McKibben told his social media followers.
“Today TC Energy threw in the towel for good. Never ever give up.”