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Alberta

History, Controversy & Indigenous Involvement – Death of Keystone XL

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For many, few stories have been as captivating and as frustrating as that of the stop-and-start Keystone XL pipeline project, which appears to officially be reaching its end following the inauguration of President Joe Biden on Wednesday, January 20, 2021. 

The Keystone XL pipeline extension was originally proposed by TC Energy in 2008 as the 4th phase of the existing Keystone Pipeline System, which traverses Canada and the United States. The 1,947 km pipeline would run from Hardisty, Alberta, to Steele City, Nebraska, dramatically increasing the transportation capacity of Alberta crude oil to 830,000 barrels per day. 

The National Energy Board first approved the Keystone XL application in March 2010, with a number of conditions in place to protect environmental and landowner interests.
Opposition towards the project developed quickly, largely on the basis of environmental concerns. Environmental assessments released by the U.S. State Department, which established the pipeline would have “limited environmental impact”, were met with public backlash and mass protests.
In 2011, the State Department required TC Energy (then TransCanada) to reroute the pipeline around an “ecologically sensitive” area in Nebraska, to which TC Energy agreed.

In January 2012, President Barack Obama rejected the Keystone XL, but invited TC to submit another application, which was done in May 2012.
Following another 3 years of legislative debate, protest and controversial back and forth, Obama vetoed the bill to build the Keystone XL on February 24, 2015.
On November 6, 2015, the Obama Administration once again rejected TC Energy’s application to build the Keystone XL pipeline.

In this context, tensions continued to rise, as massive amounts of money and potential jobs hung in the balance with no end in sight. In 2016, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump included the Keystone XL in his campaign, vowing to approve it if elected as President of the United States.

Following his election in November 2016, President Trump signed an executive order approving the Keystone XL pipeline, along with an order requiring American pipelines be built with American steel.
In late 2018, the pipeline’s construction was delayed once again by a U.S. federal judge, citing environmental impact.

Construction resumed in April 2020, following a pledge from Alberta Premier Jason Kenney to invest CAD$1.5 billion in the project in March 2020. Outrage from environmental and Indigenous groups continued in the wake of the announcement.

In May 2020, then-presumed presidential nominee Joe Biden shared plans to shutdown the Keystone XL as a part of his campaign. (1)

It is January 2021, and Biden has indeed followed through on his claim to scrap the pipeline. To the outrage of many Albertans and their fellow Canadians, one of Biden’s first executive orders as President of the United States, just hours after his inauguration, was to revoke TC Energy’s permit for the Keystone XL. 

As of December 2020, more than 150 kilometres of pipeline had already been installed. According to Financial Post, the cancellation leaves behind approximately 48,000 tons of steel.

Biden’s decision has served to deepen the division between pro and anti-pipeline groups, including the opposing positions expressed by a number of Canadian Indigenous groups.
Over the course of the past decade, Indigenous opposition to the pipeline has been well documented through a series of protests and petitions, featuring countless Canadians who rallied in support of First Nations groups, environmental concerns and land rights. 

In 2016, Donald Trump’s renewed approval of the pipeline was met with equally renewed opposition by those groups determined to halt the project once and for all. “The fight to kill the Keystone XL pipeline begins anew,” said Dallas Goldtooth, lead organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network in 2017, “and Donald Trump should expect far greater resistance than ever before.” 

On the other side of this opposition, the historic formation of the Natural Law Energy coalition came as a shock to many. Natural Law Energy (NLE) is a coalition of First Nations groups who expressed their support for the Keystone XL pipeline by pursuing investment opportunities with TC Energy. Little Pine First Nation, Louis Bull Tribe, Nekaneet Cree First Nation, Ermineskin Cree Nation and Akamihk Montana Cree First Nation came together to form the coalition with the ambition of providing First Nations groups with financial resources and opportunities.

For Chief Alvin Francis of Nekaneet First Nation in Saskatchewan, the pipeline presented an opportunity to secure funding for indigenous communities and aid indigenous youth in their schooling or business endeavors for years to come. “It’s about making life better for all of our youth,” he told the Globe and Mail in November 2020.
Just as Indigenous anti-pipeline groups celebrate the latest development, Biden’s executive order to cancel the pipeline once again has been met with disappointment from members of the NLE and its supporters. 

Recent developments over the multi-billion dollar Keystone XL have also led to heated discussions between the Kenney Administration and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Kenney’s response to the Canadian Federal Government as well as the Biden Administration was one of absolute disappointment and anger, as Alberta’s oil and gas industry sustained another massive hit. He went as far as to call upon Trudeau to impose economic sanctions on the United States. 

While many have echoed Kenney’s sentiments regarding the cancellation of the pipeline and the Biden Administrations early treatment of Canada and the province of Alberta, others have identified this development as an opportunity for Alberta to diversify. Under the current economic circumstances, can Alberta overcome the loss of the Keystone XL? Should Alberta focus on diversifying? Given the ongoing global shift towards renewable energy technology, can we afford not to? 

For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary.

Alberta

Premier Smith uses First Ministers’ meeting to catch up with Quebec Premier Legault and Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe

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Premier Smith’s update from the Ottawa

Premier Danielle Smith participated in the First Ministers’ Meeting on health care in Ottawa and provided the following update.

Alberta is leading the country with major reform to health care. After 2.5 years of requests from Canada’s premiers, today, the federal government presented their plan. While this is a start, overall, this is significantly lower than the premiers anticipated. Premier Smith will take this information back to her team in Alberta in advance of meeting with Canada’s premiers again in the coming days.

Premier Smith also met with premiers François Legault of Quebec and Scott Moe of Saskatchewan in Ottawa in advance of today’s first ministers’ meeting.

Premier Smith and Premier Legault committed to a desired outcome for a health-care deal that recognizes and respects provincial jurisdiction over health delivery and leads to better outcomes for Albertans and Quebecers. Premier Smith stressed the importance of Alberta’s energy sector, advocating for the importance of natural gas exploration and development both for the growth of the Canadian economy and to provide energy security for Canada’s allies. Premier Legault reiterated his desire to invest in clean energy like hydroelectricity to fight climate change. Both premiers expressed concern about federal overreach and the need for the federal government to respect provincial autonomy in areas of provincial jurisdiction to better meet the needs of their citizens.

Premier Smith and Premier Moe expressed a need for flexibility in the delivery of health-care services, especially those that Alberta’s Healthcare Action Plan commits to, such as reducing surgical wait times, improving ambulance services and reducing emergency room wait times. Premier Smith emphasized Alberta’s progress on recovery-oriented care to support those struggling with mental health and addictions challenges and invited Premier Moe to Alberta to visit the province’s recovery-oriented treatment centres. The premiers also discussed the mutual importance of the energy sector to their provinces for job growth and export to Canada’s allies and a desire to work together on establishing economic corridors for trade and energy export.

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Alberta

Premier Smith asks Prime Minister to halt “Just Transition” legislation

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Premier Smith meets with the Prime Minister

Premier Danielle Smith met with the Prime Minister for approximately 30 minutes primarily discussing Alberta’s request for the federal government to halt the introduction of its proposed ‘Just Transition’ legislation and other emission reduction strategies.

The Premier asked the federal government to instead work collaboratively with the Government of Alberta on developing a plan and partnership to attract energy investment and workers into Alberta’s conventional, non-conventional and emerging energy sectors while reducing Canada’s and Alberta’s net emissions.

The Prime Minister expressed a willingness to explore this strategy with the Premier through their respective ministers and the Premier will be following up with further correspondence regarding proposed next steps in the near future.

The Premier used today’s discussion to outline Alberta’s expectations as to what must and must not be included in any future federal legislation, targets or policies as it relates to Alberta’s energy sector. These expectations included:

  • Abandonment of any references to ‘just transition’ or any other terminology or policies that signal the phaseout of Alberta’s conventional or non-conventional energy sector or workforce.
  • Increased workforce training and participation in all of the conventional, non-conventional and emerging energy sectors.
  • The need for formal consultation and collaboration with Alberta before the federal government announces or implements legislation, targets or policies that materially impact Alberta’s energy sector.
  • Substantial increase in LNG exports to Asia through the lens of meeting targets through replacement of higher emitting fuel sources with clean Canadian LNG.
  • Joint federal-provincial initiatives to facilitate increased private investment in nuclear, hydrogen, bitumen beyond combustion, geothermal, lithium, helium, zero-emission vehicle, CCUS, petrochemical and other emerging technologies and fuels that make Alberta’s conventional and non-conventional energy sector increasingly carbon neutral.

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