The final nail has been placed in the Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline’s coffin as TC Energy suspends work on the pipeline. While President Joe Biden might be delivering the final blow, the pipeline was primarily laid to rest by 13 years of hard-fought organizing and land defense led by Indigenous Peoples across Turtle Island, with support from many people and organizations.
For land defenders and climate justice activists, this news is worthy of great celebration. Unfortunately, PM Justin Trudeau and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney are still committed to fighting to bring KXL back from the dead. This commitment to support the expansion of the fossil fuel industry is harmful both to the climate and to local and national economies. It’s a toxic narrative that keeps us from moving forward towards equitable and sustainable futures.
Today we should be saying goodbye and good riddance to KXL and setting our sights on greener pastures – Kenney and Trudeau included. Here are five reasons these two politicians should rejoice rather than reject the end of KXL.
Have you heard about the climate crisis?
2020 was the hottest year on record, with the top six hottest years being 2015 through 2020. This warming comes with the spread of new diseases, changes in freshwater availability, increase in devastating storms and droughts, changing animal migration patterns which can disrupt food systems, changes in human migration, and much more. The climate crisis is not a thing of the future – it’s here and now. Our best shot at staving off major disruptions to human society is rapidly decreasing fossil use this decade and tapering off to zero by 2050.
There are a few reasons commonly given to expand fossil fuel pipelines like KXL, none of which are in the public interest: pipelines transport even more fossil fuels leading to more climate warming; they make the executives and shareholders of their parent companies very wealthy at the expense of so many others; and they enable fossil fuel companies to maintain their power over all kinds of decision-making processes.
The impacts of this wealth and power grab are stark. Indigenous Peoples and people of colour bear the health and environmental impacts of pipeline construction and use. Workers are left by the wayside as jobs are automated and public budgets are allocated to making the rich even richer. Millions of people struggle with poverty and hollowed out public services. The climate suffers. The water suffers. People lose power to influence political decisions that affect them.
These outcomes are the exact opposite of what we want to see in a Green New Deal, a just transition, a just recovery, or any other vision for a just, sustainable, equitable future that our movements might hold.
So good riddance to Keystone XL! With this pipeline’s passing, we have a greater shot at creating a climate-safe and equitable future together.
Indigenous Peoples and lands must be respected
The fight against KXL was led by Indigenous Peoples and supported by a diversity of people and organizations. A huge range of tactics and approaches were used, all contributing to the end of the pipeline.
On January 14 2021, 75 Indigenous women leaders from nations across Turtle Island wrote a letter to Biden asking for KXL to be cancelled, and to stop DAPL and Line 3 pipelines as well.
Indigenous people have long understood the link between extraction, intensive work camps, and the abuse and disappearance of Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited people. Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirited people go missing and are murdered at a much higher rate than other segments of the population, and the perpetrators of these disappearances and murders rarely face consequences for their actions.
This concern about missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited people is not unique to the United States – this dynamic is present in Canada as well, and the same concerns are echoed by other women fighting extractive projects here as well.
For the sake of Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited people, let’s say goodbye to the Keystone XL pipeline.
Canada’s energy regulator says we don’t need that much pipeline capacity anyway!
The Canada Energy Regulator (CER) puts out a report every year with projections about the future of the energy sector. These reports guide decisions about pipelines and new fossil fuel infrastructure. In November 2020, the CER released a report that suggests if Canada takes even a modest approach to climate action, the added export capacity of the Keystone XL pipeline would be overkill.
This pipeline would never be used to its full capacity, and the cost of that would be borne by taxpayers. It’s not a good investment for public finances or the climate.
For the sake of our public finances, and for the investments in a sustainable and equitable future we could make if we stopped throwing money at the fossil fuel sector, let’s say goodbye to KXL!
Delaying just transition planning harms workers
The truth is that oil and gas jobs will not rebound as we recover from the pandemic. Many fossil fuel companies have announced permanent layoffs of employees in the past year as they adjust to structural changes in the energy industry. Between 2014 and 2019, more than 52,000 people lost jobs in the fossil fuel industry in Canada, not only due to the price of oil but also because companies are automating their operations.
A new report authored by economist Jim Stanford shows that denying the fact that oil industry jobs won’t come back, and failing to plan for supported transition for fossil fuel sector workers will “only make things worse.”
For Prime Minster Trudeau and Premier Kenney, that means redirecting efforts from lobbying to resurrect KXL to working with fossil fuel workers to plan retraining, retirement packages and other job transition supports.
Now governments can stop throwing good money after bad
Last year the Government of Alberta spent $1.5 billion of taxpayers dollars to support the KXL pipeline and provided $6 billion in loan guarantees. Now, Kenney looking for legal avenues to seek damages, and says there is a “strong legal argument” in Alberta’s favour despite legal experts saying there is little hope.
Since learning of U.S. President Biden’s intention to cancel KXL’s permits, Premier Kenney signed more than $1 million in lobbying contracts with Washington lobbyists to try to change Biden’s mind. And let’s not forget the $3.5 million the Alberta government has poured into a public inquiry intended to “defend” Alberta’s oil and gas sector, which is a “fiasco” that has been mired in scandal and delay!
As many critics have noted, the fate of the KXL pipeline is subject to the whim of the president. President Barack Obama cancelled TC Energy’s (formerly TransCanada) permits for KXL, President Donald Trump approved those permits and now President Biden has cancelled them once again. Why should taxpayers see their money thrown at a project they have so little control over?
With the writing on the wall, it’s time for Alberta Premier Jason Kenney to accept that this pipeline will never be built, and to stop spending the public’s money chasing this pipedream. Now, we can focus more of our energy on creating the future we need, and we can organize to push our governments to do the same.
Every time a major pipeline or extraction project is delayed or cancelled, I feel a surge of hope and renewed sense of power in the climate justice movement. I believe that with continued organizing, strategizing and visioning our movements can create a better future for our communities. Learn more and plug into our Green New Deal Communities work here.