The Trump administration has issued a permit to go ahead and build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. The $8 billion project has been the subject of a years-long fight between environmental advocates and those who claim the pipeline will create much-needed new jobs. Today’s decision overrules the Obama administration’s 2015 decision to kill the project.
We knew the approval was coming, since President Donald Trump signed memoranda to resurrect the stalled pipeline back in January. Still, even with today’s permit, the pipeline’s exact route is controversial and the company running it, TransCanada, needs to get additional building permits in several states.
Keystone XL is supposed to carry oil from Canada to the border between Nebraska and Kansas, and then connect to the the Gulf Coast Pipeline. Because it crosses the Canadian border, the project needs to be approved by the State Department. However, two years ago the State Department conducted a review and said the pipeline should not go ahead. (Current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was the CEO of Exxon Mobil, recused himself from today’s decision after protesters said his background indicated a conflict of interest.)
This will only create 50 jobs
Environmental groups argue that pipelines are not safe because leaks are common and contribute to massive environmental damage. The leaks they fear are not exactly hypothetical. In January, for example, a Canadian pipeline spilled 200,000 liters of oil in a First Nations community. And a ProPublica report says that only 7 percent of natural gas lines and 44 percent of so-called “hazardous liquid lines” are regularly checked.
“The Keystone XL pipeline is a disaster for people, wildlife and the planet,” Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “Donald Trump only cares about making his special interest pals richer even though our children will inherit a world ravaged by climate change. We will use every tool we have to fight this pipeline from the courts to the streets.”
Oil advocates, on the other hand, say that the “pipeline will create thousands of much-needed jobs for Americans” and also boost the United States’ energy security. But PolitiFact has rated these jobs numbers as false. The pipeline will only create about 50 jobs in the long run, though it could create as many as 42,100 temporary jobs during construction. And Trump’s goal of “energy independence” is actually dangerous for our national interests. One thing is for sure: this decision is consistent with Trump’s incoherent plans for the environment.