By ROB GILLIES
TORONTO (AP) — Top officials in Canada want a chance to make the case for a long disputed oil pipeline to be built amid reports President-elect Joe Biden will cancel Keystone XL.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Monday he will seek legal damages if reports are true that Biden plans to scrap the pipeline on his first day upon taking office. Biden’s plan is outlined in transition documents seen by Canadian media outlets.
“We hope President-elect Biden will show respect for Canada and will sit down and at the very least talk to us,” Kenney said.
Biden’s spokesman Andrew Bates said Monday the transition team had no comment on the pipeline. A person familiar with the pipeline matter said Monday that the document cited by Canadian news media was a draft slide that was a few weeks old. Despite the timing suggested in the draft slide, everything on it “may not happen on day one,” the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record on the matter.
The 1,700-mile pipeline would carry roughly 800,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast, passing through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma.
First proposed in 2008, the pipeline has become emblematic of the tensions between economic development and curbing the fossil fuel emissions that are causing climate change. The Obama administration rejected it, but President Donald Trump revived it and has been a strong supporter. Construction already started.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised Keystone XL as a top priority when he spoke with President-elect Biden in a phone call in November. The project is meant to bring more critical oil exports to Canada, which has the third-largest oil reserves in the world.
Trudeau and Biden are close and largely politically aligned, but the pipeline is expected to be an early irritant as Biden has said he would cancel it.
“Surely the relationship between Canada and the United States is worth at least having that discussion,” said Kenney, whose province has a financial stake in the pipeline.
After reports surfaced that it would be canceled on the first day of Biden’s term, Calgary, Alberta-based TC Energy Corp. announced late Sunday it would spent US$1.7 billion on a solar, wind and battery-powered operating system for the pipeline to ensure it is zero-emission by 2030, and to rely exclusively on union labor.
Federal Natural Resource Minister Seamus O’Regan said in a statement his government continues to make the case for the pipeline to American colleagues.
“Canadian oil is produced under strong environmental and climate policy frameworks, and this project will not only strengthen the vital Canada-U.S energy relationship, but create thousands of good jobs for workers on both sides of the border,” he said.
Roland Paris, a former foreign policy adviser to Trudeau, noted it has been Biden’s position to cancel it for a long time.
“Still, he should recognize that peremptorily revoking the permit without first giving Canada a chance to make its case wouldn’t exactly send a signal of renewed friendship that he has promised towards America’s closest allies,” Paris tweeted.
Robin Rorick, a vice president of the American Petroleum Institute, an oil and gas industry trade group, said Keystone XL has been through 10 years of extensive environmental reviews.
“Thousands of union workers are already a part of this responsible and sustainable project,” the trade group official said in a statement. “We urge President Biden to stand up for the thousands of good-paying union jobs tied to Keystone XL and ensure local communities across the country have access to the affordable, reliable energy that’s needed to power the nation’s economic recovery.”