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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

Positive COVID-19 tests at world men's curling championship deemed “false positives”

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CALGARY — The four positive COVID-19 tests that interrupted the men’s world curling championship are considered “false positives” from potentially contaminated samples, according to the World Curling Federation.

The men’s championship concluded late Sunday night with Sweden’s Niklas Edin winning a record fifth world men’s title.

No games were played Saturday because four participants, including one from a playoff team, tested positive for the virus in “exit” tests before leaving Calgary’s curling bubble. 

None had symptoms of the illness.

All have tested negative in multiple re-tests since then, the WCF said Monday in a statement. All tests were conducted via PCR throat swabs.

“According to Alberta Health, PCR testing remains the gold standard for COVID-19 testing,” the WCF said. “Very rarely, there are occurrences through sampling or testing processes when samples may become contaminated and a false positive may result.

“Following an investigation over the weekend, it appears that this may have occurred in this case and follow-up testing was undertaken.”

All athletes and personnel considered close contacts of the four underwent testing Saturday with all results negative. 

Every playoff team member was tested before and after each game Sunday with those results also negative, the WCF said. Hotel staff were also tested Sunday and cleared.

“With the original four positive test results now deemed as false positives, the integrity of the Calgary bubble remains intact,” the WCF declared.

“The change also allows international athletes who were considered close contacts, and who would have had to remain in isolation in Calgary for 14 days, will now be able to depart Calgary.”

The fifth of seven events in Calgary’s curling hub, the Humpty’s Champions Cup, gets underway Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 12, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Pulling the plug: Edmonton Folk Music Festival cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic

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EDMONTON — Despite Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s hope that the COVID-19 vaccine will allow summer events like the Calgary Stampede to go ahead, the Edmonton Folk Music Festival has been cancelled

The festival says in a statement that without full vaccination, people won’t be entirely safe from the spread of COVID-19. 

It says that with virus variants and an uncertain vaccine rollout, the impossibility of social distancing at the outdoor festival could lead to community spread.

Kenney has said that two-thirds of the population should have a vaccine shot by the end of June and things should begin to feel back-to-normal.

He says the Stampede, which is held in early July, along with sporting events and other festivals will be possible.

The Edmonton Folk Music Festival says it will continue to offer online content and, if small gatherings are permitted, it hopes to add some community engagement.

“With so many variables at play, the complexity of planning and delivering a festival of our size makes it impossible to move forward in our usual manner,” the statement said Monday.

“As profoundly disappointing as this news is, we believe this is the only safe way forward. The safety of our patrons, volunteers, and artists was of paramount importance in coming to this conclusion.”

The annual four-day festival in the city’s Gallagher Park usually attracts thousands of music fans and boasts approximately 2,700 volunteers.

Alberta introduced new health rules last week, closing restaurants to in-person dining and further reducing customer capacity at retail stores in response to rising COVID-19 numbers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 12, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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