WASHINGTON, March 24, 2017 – The U.S. State Department today issued a presidential permit for the construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, allowing President Trump to make good on one of his campaign promises.
Reversing an Obama administration decision against the pipeline, Trump announced the approval from the White House, saying it was a “great day for jobs and energy independence.” He added that the pipeline would be the "first of many" energy projects he plans to approve.
The project was originally supposed to open in 2012. It would allow TransCanada Keystone Pipeline L.P. to move crude oil from Canada’s tar sands through Montana and South Dakota to existing pipelines in Nebraska. From there, the sludgy crude would be carried to refineries and export terminals on the Gulf of Mexico.
Environmentalists, who have fought the project for years, vowed to continue their battle, arguing that the project would result in increased greenhouse gas emissions and threaten the Ogallala Aquifer and its massive underground deposits of fresh water.
“Fight back against Trump’s approval of the Keystone XL pipeline,” the Sierra Club posted on its website. “This fight is far from over,” the organization said, pointing out that the project still needs approval by state authorities in Nebraska and calling for the public to send comments in opposition.
The American Petroleum Institute welcomed the approval.
“Today’s action …. is critical to creating American jobs, growing the economy and making our nation more energy secure,” Jack Gerard, API’s president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. “Moving forward,” he said, “we strongly urge the individual states, which stand to benefit from the Keystone XL pipeline, to approve this important project.”
The State Department concluded in 2015 that the project would create about 3,900 construction jobs if built in one year, and about 50 permanent jobs to maintain the pipeline. Directly and indirectly, it said, about 42,000 jobs would be created.
The permit was signed by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon Jr. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, recused himself from the decision earlier this month.
The State Department said that Shannon considered a range of factors in making his determination that issuance of the permit would serve the national interest. They included foreign policy; energy security; environmental, cultural, and economic impacts; and compliance with applicable law and policy. The department’s approval was needed as the pipeline crosses an international border.