• Makaela Stilton

The Controversy Around the Keystone XL Pipeline

Ever since the Keystone XL Pipeline was first proposed in 2008 by TC Energy, there has been a constant back and forth on the approval and disapproval of the controversial oil transportation pipeline. From people protesting against the pipeline due to environmental impacts to people also protesting for it owing to the fact that it may give citizens better tax revenue and more job opportunities, the question of whether or not the original pipeline should be extended has become a relevant issue once more. On January 20, 2021, Joe Biden fulfilled his campaign promise to revoke the permit that would allow Canada to construct the pipeline across the border given to by President Trump in March 2017.


The Keystone Pipeline is a 2,147 mile long pipeline system started in 2010 that transports oil from Alberta, Canada down through the Midwest to the Gulf of Mexico. The XL Pipeline is a northern extension that would add another 1,209 miles running through Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska for more efficiency and access to transporting a significantly increased amount of tar sand. Tar sand is a thicker and more corrosive type of oil found in northern Alberta that requires a lot of economic and environmental sacrifice, and produces a large amount of greenhouse gases.


The biggest impact made by this pipeline is the negative environmental effect it would contain. With having the main income of oil be from tar sands, the likelihood of corrosion and leakage is said to rise significantly, and to go about cleaning up tar sand spills would cost more money, effort, and health to the ecosystems exposed. Mining the tar sand oil means deforestation in Canada’s Boreal Forest and the emission of up to four times the existing carbon pollution. The construction and possibility of leakage from the XL would also be hard on some of the more fragile ecosystems such as several bodies of water in Nebraska that provide drinking water for millions of Americans, as well as ranches and farmland.


Many people throughout the years were found protesting either against or for the grant made for the creation of the XL Pipeline. Many environmentalists fought for the denial of this creation due to the widespread destruction and increase in pollution that would come with it. Indigenous communities also revolted because it would be built on tribal lands, along with business owners fighting against it due to the obstruction that the pipeline would create. Many farm and ranch owners protested because of the potential spills and construction that would destroy agriculture and farm life. In August 2011, a large protest surrounded the White House in desperation for the denial of the Keystone Pipeline. An estimated 1,000 people were arrested for the obstruction of the White House, creating more tension and desperation coming from these communities.


It is argued that the XL Pipeline would be beneficial to the economy, owing to the lowering of gas prices, increase in jobs, and increase in tax revenue. However, it was found that there would be no possibility in the lowering of gas prices since the demand for gas would only increase and the majority of the oil transported would be exported to other countries. Although there would be an access to jobs, it would only be a few thousand open jobs rather than the stated 100,000 new jobs provided. Despite the debunks of these arguments, the Governor of Montana, Greg Gianforte, expressed his and many citizens of Montana’s frustrations because of less tax revenue, loss of jobs, and waste of materials provided by the start of the Pipeline construction.

Once the XL Pipeline was proposed, and the majority of Americans fought against it, resulting in President Obama refusing the cross-border permit in November of 2015, denying TC Energy access to building the extension into the United States. When President Trump was put into office, he was open in his belief and advocacy in increasing the oil company, and decided to sign an executive order that would allow TC Energy to create the XL Pipeline. However, there was some conflict when it was discovered that his administration illegally approved the permit. The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), sued President Trump and his administration for this in 2017, forcing him to personally issue the cross-border permit for TC Energy.


The construction of the pipeline was slowed in the past year due to the decrease in oil demand and economic decline as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and ultimately came to a halt as President Joe Biden revoked the permit given by President Trump on his first day of office on January 20, 2021. Recently, the White House announced that Biden will be attending a meeting with the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, to discuss the Keystone XL Pipeline and Biden’s decision to revoke the cross-border permit on February 23, 2021.


13 views0 comments