The Keystone XL Pipeline Moves a Step Closer to Reality

Photo: AP

Enough private companies want to buy TransCanada’s crude oil to bring the energy company’s notorious Keystone XL Pipeline closer to reality.

TransCanada announced Thursday it’s secured enough “commercial support” to ship 500,000 barrels of oil a day through the Keystone XL Pipeline for 20 years. While that may sound like yet another setback for the environmentalists and indigenous groups opposing the proposed 1,179-mile long pipeline, it’s important to note that Keystone XL is expected to be able to move 830,000 barrels of crude oil from the so-called tar sands in Alberta, Canada, to Nebraska. While more customers can sign up in the future, they’re not exactly rushing to do so right now.


Plus, a good 50,000 of those 500,000 barrels are going to the province of Alberta via a contract between Alberta and TransCanada. Public officials are supporting the energy project for its potential “to create jobs and property tax revenue in Canada,” according to the Omaha World-Herald.

The company appears pleased with the developments.

“Over the past 12 months, the Keystone XL project has achieved several milestones that move us significantly closer to constructing this critical energy infrastructure for North America,” said TransCanada CEO Russ Girling, in a press release.

Last year, in November, the Nebraska Public Service Commission approved a route for the pipeline, which was the project’s last remaining regulatory hurdle. Though this route wasn’t the one TransCanada preferred, the company has been trying to gauge whether it’s the right decision by consulting new landowners. It’s also been trying to convince the state to change its decision, but no decision has been made yet.

Nothing about Keystone XL is final yet. According to Bloomberg, TransCanada has yet to make a “final investment decision,” that would lead to actual construction of the pipeline. It needs to confirm landowners along this new route will allow the pipeline to cut through, and other landowners have been busy to ensure their lands remain Keystone XL-free.


Then, there are the courts. A lawsuit that environmental and landowner groups, including the Northern Plains Resource Council, filed against President Donald Trump’s decision to issue the company a permit for this project moved forward in November. But these kinds of lawsuits take years to get through the court system. Unless plaintiffs can convince a judge to order an injunction, the pipeline could already be completed by the time a judge rules on its legality.

If Keystone XL is built, let’s hope it fares better than its sister pipeline, the Keystone Pipeline. That one spilled an estimated 210,000 gallons of crude oil in South Dakota in November. An initiative dubbed “Promise to Protect”, has garnered support from more than 30 organizations and 10,000 individuals to peacefully protest the pipeline’s construction. This alliance manifested after the incident and after the state’s approval of the new route.

The Keystone Pipeline spill on November 16, 2017. Photo Courtesy of KSFY via TransCanada

“There has never been meaningful change without people standing up to injustice and putting their bodies on the line,” the initiative’s site reads.


Despite all this, TransCanada plans to begin construction in 2019. The project will take a full two summers to complete, reports InsideClimate News. But that’s only if pipeline opponents let them.

Activists, or “water protectors,” as they prefer to be called, didn’t succeed in stopping the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota in 2016, but they did succeed in stopping the Keystone XL once before, in 2015. Those were different times, but that doesn’t mean they can’t do it again.


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About the author

Yessenia Funes

Senior staff writer, Earther. The one who "pulls the race card" in the name of environmental justice. You dig?

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