WASHINGTON — The Keystone XL pipeline is back on — maybe. President Donald Trump signed an executive order Tuesday potentially reviving the Canada-to-Texas pipeline, the subject of a multi-year saga that cast a long shadow over Canada-U.S. relations.
Trump signed a series of executive orders related to infrastructure and construction, the highest profile of which involved the pipeline project that would, once completed, carry more than one-fifth of the oil Canada exports to the U.S..
It remains far from a done deal: there's ongoing uncertainty on multiple fronts, including potential — and long-anticipated — legal and political fights.
U.S. President Donald Trump signs the last of three Executive Orders in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on Monday. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)
Other surprise wrinkles came from Trump himself.
He said he wants the Keystone XL details renegotiated. He also signed an order demanding that U.S. steel be used in U.S. pipelines; much of the stockpiled Keystone XL pipe has already been purchased, much of it from outside the U.S.
Trump offered assembled reporters no details, either about what he wants in a renegotiation, or which projects will be subject to the content requirement on U.S. steel — and whether that order involves Keystone XL.
The White House is expected to share more details later Tuesday.
'Subject to a renegotiation of terms'
"It's subject to a renegotiation of terms by us," Trump said as he signed the order, not yet made public.
"We're going to renegotiate some of the terms. And if they'd like, we'll see if we can get that pipeline built. A lot of jobs — 28,000 jobs. Great construction jobs."
The president added as he signed another order: "If we're going to build pipelines in the United States, the pipes should be made in the United States. Much pipeline is built from other countries. From now on, we're going to start making pipeline in the United States... It'll put a lot of steel workers back to work."
Less surprising are the other promised challenges to the pipeline.
The political activist who organized Nebraska farmers against the project listed a half-dozen remaining obstacles, including: a constitutional battle over the state's pipeline law, a new permitting process in Nebraska, and potential protests and legal actions by indigenous peoples in South Dakota.
The relationship between former prime minister Stephen Harper and former U.S. president Barack Obama became strained over Keystone. (Photo: CP)
Even if everything works out for the company, she said, the earliest it could start building is next year — and that's without the multiple political and legal fights she predicted would now occur.
"It's absolutely disgusting that Donald Trump is now going to use eminent domain for private gain against American farmers for a foreign pipeline," Jane Kleeb said in an interview Tuesday.
"(He) wants to build a wall to protect America from Mexico — and yet here he is saying that any foreign country can now pierce our border with a pipeline without any federal review.
"That should terrify (every) single American."
Keystone XL would carry more than one-fifth of the oil Canada exports to the United States, taking it to the already-built southern leg that connects with major refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.
Stopping that pipeline has not slowed the flow of Canada's exports.
The amount of Canadian oil sent to the U.S. has increased more than 60 per cent since TransCanada Corp. first applied for a permit in 2008. Those exports have largely rolled into the U.S. on trains.
In a 2015 interview, a leader of the anti-Keystone movement explained the long-term goal: sabotaging the oil industry. Bill McKibben of the group 350.org helped organize the first big national protest against the project, which had previously been a localized land-rights issue in Nebraska.
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The goal is to make it less efficient, less profitable to force a faster transition to clean energy. He said the bid to stall projects was part of a broader effort — which also included pressuring companies to divest their fossil-fuel investments.
"We can't bankrupt the fossil-fuel industry. But we can begin to politically bankrupt them — and we're trying," McKibben told The Canadian Press.
"(It's) a holding action. If we can keep them from expanding and building pipelines and infrastructure for a little while longer, nobody's going to use this stuff again. Why would you, when you can make use of the sun and the wind and whatever else?
"And they know that too — which is why they're so desperately trying to get it done now."
In a statement Tuesday, McKibben promised Round 2 of the fight: "This is not a done deal. The last time around, TransCanada was so confident they literally mowed the strip where they planned to build the pipeline, before people power stopped them.
"People will mobilize again."