The US Department of State has signed and issued a Presidential Permit to construct the Keystone XL Pipeline. The permit authorizes TransCanada to construct, to connect, to operate, and to maintain pipeline facilities at the US-Canadian border in Phillips County, Montana for the importation of crude oil.
In November 2016, then US Secretary of State John Kerry had rejected the controversial Keystone XL, citing combatting climate change as the critical factor. Kerry noted at that time that the arguments pro and con had been “overstated”. (Earlier post.) In January 2017, two days after newly inaugurated President Trump issued a Presidential Memorandum inviting TransCanada to “promptly re-submit its application to the Department of State for a Presidential permit for the construction and operation of the Keystone XL Pipeline,” the company did so.
The Department of State reviewed TransCanada’s application in accordance with Executive Order 13337 (30 April 2004) and the 24 January 2017 Presidential Memorandum Regarding Construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. The permit was signed by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas A. Shannon, Jr. (Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, formerly the CEO of ExxonMobil, had recused himself from decisions on the application.)
The proposed Keystone XL project consists of a 875-mile (1,408 km) pipeline and related facilities to transport up to 830,000 barrels per day of crude oil from Alberta, Canada and the Bakken Shale Formation in Montana. The pipeline will cross the US border near Morgan, Montana and continue through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, where it will connect to existing pipeline facilities near Steele City, Nebraska for onward delivery to Cushing, Oklahoma and the Gulf Coast Area.
Keystone’s first application for the Keystone XL pipeline was submitted on 19 September 2008, and a Final EIS was published on 26 August 2011.
This is a significant milestone for the Keystone XL project. We greatly appreciate President Trump’s Administration for reviewing and approving this important initiative and we look forward to working with them as we continue to invest in and strengthen North America’s energy infrastructure.Russ Girling, TransCanada’s president and CEO
The issuance of the Presidential Permit does not bring the issues surrounding the pipeline to close, but does advance the process. Additional state-level approvals are still required in Nebraska, where the pipeline would cross, and from other federal agencies such as the Army Corps of Engineers. TransCanada said it will continue to engage key stakeholders and neighbors throughout Nebraska, Montana and South Dakota to obtain the necessary permits and approvals to advance this project to construction. Among these:
An application to the Bureau of Land Management for construction of the project on Federal Land.
An application to the Nebraska Public Service Commission in early 2017 for approval of its proposed routing in Nebraska. The proposed route will be essentially the route previously evaluated by the NDEQ in 2012 and approved by the Nebraska Governor in 2013 and included in the FSEIS review. Keystone expects the Nebraska alternative route selection process to be complete in 2017.
County and local permites in Montana and South Dakota.
In conjunction with the issuance of the permit, TransCanada has discontinued its claim under Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which it brought after the Obama Administration rejected the pipeline, and will end its US Constitutional challenge.
The expected resurrection of the pipeline outraged environmental groups, which had campaigned for years to halt construction of the pipeline. Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said that “This project has already been defeated, and it will be once again. The project faces a long fight ahead in the states.”