Montreal, Canada – Opponents of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline hail US President Joe Biden’s decision to reject the multibillion-dollar project, saying the move provides a “sense of justification” in their multi-year struggle.
Matthew Campbell, an attorney for the Native American Rights Fund, who has represented indigenous groups in lawsuits against the project, said the ruling recognizes “tribes will be heavily affected by the pipeline and therefore should not be approved.”
Just hours after its inauguration, Biden rescinded the approval by his predecessor, President Donald Trump, of Keystone XL, a 1,947 km (1,210 mile) pipeline that was to extend from the Canadian province of Alberta to the US state of Nebraska.
Former US President Barack Obama vetoed the project in 2015, saying it was not economically viable for the United States, but Trump signed an executive order in 2017 allowing it to continue.
Trump signed a presidential order in 2019 replacing his previous authorization in a bid to speed up construction.
The pipeline, which has opposed indigenous groups, conservationists and landowners along the route who have argued it violates their rights and will accelerate the climate crisis, is expected to ship 830,000 barrels of oil per day between the two countries.
“The tribes have long pointed out that the approval of this pipeline was not in line with their treaty rights, that it did not take into consideration… the impact the pipeline will have on their water, their land, their cultural resources, their people, ”Campbell told Al Jazeera before the decision was confirmed.
The revocation of the presidential permit, he said, is “an important signal … that the Biden administration will honor and recognize the relationship of the United States with the natives of the United States.”
Lobbying in Canada
The move comes after a diplomatic flash from Canadian government officials, who have argued for the project with Biden’s team since the US president won the November election. Biden had promised to deny the project if he won the vote.
Jason Kenney, the premier of Alberta who invested C $ 1.5 billion ($ 1.1 billion) in the Keystone project last year, warned Earlier this week, the province could lose Can $ 1 billion ($ 784 million) if the project is canceled.
At a press conference Wednesday night, Kenney said Biden’s decision was a “punch.”
“Sadly, this is an insult directed against the United States’ most important ally and trading partner,” he said, urging the Canadian federal government to sit down with Biden to discuss the project.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday he spoke directly to Biden from Keystone in November and that Canadian officials, including the country’s ambassador to the United States, had tried to advocate for the project with senior officials in administration.
“While we welcome the president’s commitment to tackle climate change, we are disappointed but recognize the president’s decision to keep his election promise on Keystone XL,” Trudeau said.
TC Energy Corp, the company behind the project, which changed its name from TransCanada in 2019, also said Wednesday that he was “disappointed” by Biden’s move, which he said would lead to thousands of layoffs.
“TC Energy will review the decision, assess its implications and review its options. However, due to the planned revocation of the presidential permit, the progress of the project will be suspended, ”he said.
The company said last year that it expected the pipeline to be operational by 2023 and inject $ 8 billion into the North American economy.
Eugene Kung, staff attorney at West Coast Environmental Law in Vancouver, said that Biden’s actions on his first day in office, including a pledge to join the Paris climate agreement, “handed the United States on the road to global climate leadership ”.
“Now Canada is in danger of being left behind if it doesn’t tackle the (white) elephant in the room: you can’t solve the climate crisis while developing the tar sands and building new ones. pipelines, ”Kung told Al Jazeera in an email.
The Trudeau government bought a contentious pipeline, the Trans Mountain pipeline, in 2018. This project also faced stiff opposition from environmental groups and Indigenous leaders along its 1,150 km (714 mile) route from Alberta to the coast of British Columbia.
“It has been easy for Prime Minister Trudeau to play the role of climate leader with Trump in the White House for the past four years,” Kung said.
“However, on his first day in office, President Biden has now passed Trudeau by canceling an unnecessary oil sands pipeline, while Prime Minister Trudeau continues to cling to Trans Mountain and support [Keystone XL]. “
Other fights continue
Meanwhile, indigenous groups have said that if they welcome the Keystone XL cancellation as “a substantial victory,” they will continue to pressure the Biden administration to cancel other major pipeline projects.
The Indigenous Environmental Network advocacy group said that includes Line 3 – a multibillion-dollar pipeline project between Alberta and the U.S. state of Wisconsin – and the Dakota Access pipeline, which spurred massive protests led by Indigenous people in the US state of North Dakota in 2016.
“It is imperative that we keep up the pressure on President-elect Biden to end ALL fossil fuel infrastructure and projects,” Tasina Sapa Win Smith, co-founder of Cheyenne River Grassroots Collective, said in a statement.
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which opposes the Dakota Access pipeline, said he sent a letter with other tribes to Biden “demanding swift and decisive action” on the project within the first 10 days of his tenure.
Yesterday, with Yankton Sioux Tribe, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and Oglala Sioux Tribe – OST, Standing Rock sent a letter to @POTUS @Joe Biden calling for swift and decisive action on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) within the first ten days of its administration.
– Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (@StandingRockST) January 20, 2021