News from the U.S. that President Joe Biden cancelled permitting for the Keystone XL Pipeline project has devastated government officials and construction stakeholders in Canada.
As word of Biden’s executive order reached north, many lamented it as a massive missed opportunity for both nations.
“As friends and allies of the United States, we are deeply disturbed that one of President Biden’s first actions in office has been to rescind the Presidential permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline border crossing,” said Alberta Premier Jason Kenney who livestreamed his response. “My thoughts are with the 2,000 people who lost their jobs today, and all those who are coping with the devastating consequences of this decision.”
Kenney noted the intense regulatory process showed the pipeline would reduce emissions by not using rail transport.
“For months we’ve been told that the Biden transition team would not communicate with foreign governments on this or other issues,” said Kenney. “And now a decision has been made without even giving Canada a chance to communicate formally with the new administration. That’s not how you treat a friend and ally.”
Kenney called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to begin talks with the U.S. to fight strongly for the pipeline.
Canada’s unions also expressed disappointment with the change.
“Canada’s Building Trades Unions are dismayed by the decision made by the Biden Administration to rescind the permit for Keystone XL – a project creating more than 15,000 high-paying union jobs across Canada and the United States,” said Sean Strickland, executive director of Canada’s Building Trades Unions, in a statement to media. “With the challenges already presented by COVID-19 creating uncertainty in the construction industry, this news is very disappointing. Canada’s Building Trades Unions will continue to advocate for jobs for our 600,000 highly skilled trades workers from coast to coast.”
Paul de Jong, president of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA), explained it was clear for months that Biden intended to move in a different direction.
“We were aware that the Biden team signalled that they would change gears with their approach so this cancellation in some ways was of no surprise and we do not begrudge the Biden administration,” he said. “He is doing what he believes is best.”
But for the PCA, the decision was still a sad blow that makes economic recovery more difficult, stymies plans to reduce emissions, hurts efforts to establish energy independence and adds uncertainty into project development.
“Stakeholders — not just in government or construction — but unions, both north and south of the border have been in favour, Indigenous groups have been keen to see this go forward,” said de Jong. “To have this shut down by fiat is no surprise but it is still a real seismic event, for not just the industry but for both countries.”
But de Jong has not given up. He urged Canadian officials and the U.S. to have a dialogue about the project and how it could create opportunities for everyone.
“We hope that through diplomacy with Alberta, the U.S. and Canada we can find another way to get this project moving forward,” he said.
TC Energy announced it intends to review the decision, assess its implications and consider its options. But in the meantime, advancement of the project has been suspended and capitalization costs have ceased. In a press release, the company stated the decision overturns a comprehensive regulatory process that took more than a decade.
On Jan. 21 it was announced that TC Energy was planning to eliminate more than 1,000 construction jobs related to the project, which is a 1,947-kilometre pipeline designed to carry 830,000 barrels a day of crude oil from Hardisty, Alta., to Steele City, Neb.
U.S.-based Associated Equipment Distributors (AED), an international trade association representing companies involved in the distribution, rental and support of equipment, also chimed in on the announcement.
“AED is deeply disappointed by the Biden administration’s move to quash this important energy infrastructure project,” wrote AED president and CEO Brian McGuire in a statement. “Completion of the Keystone XL pipeline would create thousands of jobs and significant economic activity with minimal environmental impact.”
The group urged Biden to reconsider and committed to work with Congress and industry to make Keystone happen.
– With files from The Canadian Press
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