President-elect Joe Biden is reportedly planning to cancel the permit for the $9 billion Keystone XL Pipeline as one of his first acts in office, as his administration begins to unwind Donald Trump’s rollbacks on climate and environmental policies.
According to a report by CBC, the words "Rescind Keystone XL pipeline permit" appear on a list of executive actions likely scheduled for Wednesday following Mr Biden’s inauguration.
The new president is expected to sign almost a dozen executive orders on day one to prevent “crises” and “irreversible harms”, according to the transition team.
These are expected to include a measure to rejoin the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, the withdrawal of Mr Trump’s travel restrictions on some Muslim-majority countries, and an order making mask-wearing mandatory in an expanded set of circumstances for at least 100 days.
"These executive actions will deliver relief to the millions of Americans that are struggling in the face of these crises," Ron Klain, Mr Biden’s incoming chief of staff, said.
"President-elect Biden will take action — not just to reverse the gravest damages of the Trump administration, but also to start moving our country forward."
Mr Biden had opposed Mr Trump decision in 2017 to grant a permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline, and pledged to cancel the cross-border project with Canada if he became president.
On Sunday, Bernie Sanders, former presidential candidate and Vermont Senator, tweeted: "The Keystone pipeline is & always has been a disaster. I'm delighted that Joe Biden will cancel the Keystone permit on his first day in office. 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 Pipeline System is to transport crude oil from tar sands in Canada’s Alberta province to Illinois, Oklahoma and Texas. While three phases of the project are currently underway, the fourth phase, “Keystone XL”, to transport oil to Nebraska is facing legal challenges over environmental concerns.
Construction has started on pump stations in each of the states the line will pass through, but the legal setbacks cost pipeline operator, TC Energy Corp, much of the construction season last year.
Mr Trump granted a new permit to the Keystone XL project in 2019 to speed up the project despite critics arguing that it would prove disastrous for the environment and devastate tribal communities.
The 1,179-mile pipeline will transport 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day from Alberta to Nebraska and oil refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast.
The pipeline was rejected twice under the Obama administration, remaining blocked for eight years, as the project was at odds with efforts to tackle the climate crisis. President Trump issued permits for the project soon after entering the White House.
TC Energy Corp said it would achieve net-zero emissions by 2023 when it enters service. The company also pledged to use only renewable energy sources by 2030 in a bid to win support of the Biden administration.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said on Twitter on Sunday he was “deeply concerned” that cancellation of the pipeline would eliminate jobs, weaken U.S.-Canada relations and undermine American national security by making the US more dependent on OPEC oil imports.
Canada also defended the project as inherently different to the one rejected by Mr Obama in 2015.
The country’s US ambassador, Kirsten Hillman, said: “Not only has the project itself changed significantly since it was first proposed, but Canada’s oilsands production has also changed significantly.
“Per-barrel oilsands GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions have dropped 31 per cent since 2000, and innovation will continue to drive progress.”
She added that the project fit with both countries’ environmental plans. “There is no better partner for the U.S. on climate action than Canada as we work together for green transition,” she added.