Pipe ready to be used for the construction of the Canadian leg of Keystone XL in Alberta near the town of Oyen, in September 2020. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

A source close to the transition team of U.S. president-elect Joe Biden has told CTV News that the new president will kill the Keystone XL pipeline after taking office.

According to the transition briefing documents, reviewed by CTV News’ Washington Bureau Correspondent Richard Madan, the plan to use an executive order is listed under Wednesday, Jan.20, his first day of office.

The Keystone XL pipeline extension is a controversial cross-border project that seeks to build upon existing infrastructure transporting Canadian crude oil into the U.S. It aims to deliver 830,000 barrels of oil from Hardisty, Alta. to Steele City, Neb., and would cost approximately US$8 billion.

Biden’s election campaign has been open about his intention to dissolve the TC Energy’s Keystone deal since May, when he was running to be the Democratic candidate.

TC Energy has not commented directly on Biden’s reported decision, but issued a statement Sunday evening announcing that they would be aiming to make Keystone XL the first pipeline to be powered fully by renewable energy, saying the initiative would ensure “it will have the lowest environmental impact of an oil pipeline in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.”

The move is part of his promise to roll back actions U.S. President Donald Trump made while in office that stripped environmental protections. Biden has also promised that the U.S. will be rejoining the Paris Accord, which Trump withdrew the country from in 2017.

A Canadian source close to the matter told Madan that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau brought up the subject in a congratulatory phone call with Biden following his victory in the U.S. election.

They spoke for around 10 minutes, the source said, and agreed to continue discussions later down the road.

In an emailed statement Sunday, Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., told CTV News that the Canadian government still stands by the project, and that “Keystone XL fits within Canada’s climate plan.”

“The government has announced a strengthened climate plan with $15 billion in investments to build a cleaner, more resilient economy, and exceed our current 2030 GHG reduction target,” she wrote. “We are also legislating Canada’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

“Underpinned by a crucial and longstanding trade and security partnership, there is no better partner for the U.S. on climate action than Canada as we work together for green transition.”

The statement did not comment on Biden’s promise to end the deal.

The Keystone XL pipeline extension has sparked protests from climate and Indigenous groups on both sides of the border. Activists have expressed fears of leaks injuring wildlife and potentially poisoning water sources.

In 2019, the existing Keystone pipeline suffered a leak in eastern North Dakota, spilling 1.4 million litres of oil and impacting more than 19,000 square metres of land.

Critics of the project have also pointed out that sinking more time and money into oil in a time when the world is looking to move away from it makes little economic sense, particularly in the face of plummeting oil prices.

“This is what true climate leadership looks like,” Annamie Paul, leader of the federal Green Party, said in response to news of Biden’s expected cancellation of the Keystone deal.

She added in a tweet that the Trudeau government had announced three environmental assessment decisions for three offshore drilling projects this week, implying it showed a “contrast in leadership.”

South of the border, former Democratic presidential nominee Bernie Sanders called the pipeline project a “disaster,” tweeting that he was “delighted” by the decision.

“With all of the major crises facing America, we must never lose sight of the most existential threat facing our planet: climate change.”

The Keystone project was vetoed by former U.S. President Barack Obama in 2015, citing environmental concerns — but shortly after taking office in 2017, Trump reversed course and signed an executive order to allow the pipeline.

Construction began on the project in Alberta this summer, and was set to be completed by 2023. The project promised 2,000 construction jobs to Albertans.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has been a vocal supporter of the project, recently hiring Capitol Hill lobbyists in Washington, D.C. to shore up support for Keystone XL.

Kenney said in an emailed statement Sunday that he was “deeply concerned by reports” that Biden will cancel the deal.

“As the Government of Canada has said, building Keystone XL is ‘top of the agenda’ with the incoming Biden administration,” Kenney wrote. “Prime Minister Trudeau raised the issue with President-elect Biden on their November 9, 2020 telephone meeting, agreeing to engage on key issues, including … [sic] energy cooperation such as Keystone XL.

“We renew our call on the incoming administration to show respect for Canada as the United States’ most important trading partner and strategic ally by keeping that commitment to engage, and to allow Canada to make the case for strengthening cooperation on energy, the environment, and the economy through this project.”

He added that he believes it would be a blow to the economy on both sides of the border due to the job loss and that Canada shares the U.S.’s commitment to “environmental stewardship [and] combatting climate change.”

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole also registered his disappointment, claiming that the cancellation of the Keystone deal will “devastate thousands of Canadian families who have already been badly hurt by the economic crisis.

He also called on the federal government to reach out to Biden to “stop this from happening.”

Rachel Notley, leader of Alberta’s NDP, said in a tweet Sunday that the Keystone project had been “a risk,” and criticized Kenney for the “massive gamble” that is now unlikely to come to fruition, despite Kenney’s call to the federal government to intervene.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe also called upon Trudeau to “leverage his relationship with Mr. Biden” to change the pipeline decision, adding that “Saskatchewan will continue exercising our contacts in Washington D.C. to advocate for the continuation of this project that clearly benefits both of our nations.”

Duanne Bratt, a political science professor from Mount Royal University, believes it’s too late for Biden’s mind to be changed, particularly since cancelling the Keystone pipeline was a campaign promise and strongly supported by the Democratic party.

“I’m not sure what lobbyists are going to do between now and Wednesday afternoon,” he told CTV News Channel.

One of the “big losers in this announcement” is the government of Alberta itself, he said.

“Almost a year ago, Jason Kenney invested about $1.5 billion in purchasing part of the Keystone pipeline, and also provided a whole set of loan guarantees for TC Energy. It looks like that investment is now going to be lost on the first day of Biden’s administration.

“The decision to hire lobbyists may have been just another mistake to go with the partial purchase of the pipeline by the Kenney government.”

He said he was surprised by the announcement because Canada’s climate plan is more robust now than it was in 2015 when Obama rejected the Keystone deal.

The decision is a clear win for environmentalists, but it won’t be without repercussions, Bratt added.

“I think this is going to hurt Canada-U.S. relations,” he said. “If in fact Keystone is cancelled, I think that will put a rift with the two levels of government.”

Source: CTV, CBC, January 17, 2021.

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