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Trudeau celebrates Trump’s executive order approving the Keystone XL pipeline

Calgary-based TransCanada CEO Russ Girling reacts as Donald Trump signs an executive order in the Oval Office approving the Keystone XL pipeline on March 24, 2017.

The Trudeau government is celebrating US President Donald Trump’s signing of a presidential permit for the 830,000 barrel per day Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says, “We’re very pleased with the announcement coming out of the United States.” And Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr notes, “This is a very good opportunity for us to move more Alberta crude south of the border. It’s a very good example of how the integration of the energy economy in Canada and in the United States is in the interests of both countries, so we think it’s a good day.”

Trudeau has long backed this pipeline.

In October 2013, he stated, “My support for Keystone is steadfast. The fact that I’d be talking positively about the project I think got people thinking about the fact that perhaps it’s not as bad as it’s been caricatured.” Trudeau also confirmed his support for the pipeline in telephone conversations with Trump in November of last year and in January of this year, as well as during his visit to the White House in February.

Filling the Keystone XL pipeline with tar sands crude would facilitate a 36 per cent increase in current tar sands production and increase greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 22 million tonnes a year. In 2015, the US Environmental Protection Agency stated that over a 50-year-period, Keystone XL would lead to the release of about 1.3 billion more tonnes of greenhouse gases than a conventional oil pipeline.

The 1,897 kilometre pipeline from Hardisty, Alberta to Houston, Texas would also cross numerous waterways and the Ogallala aquifer, putting the drinking water for millions of people at risk.

The pipeline would also cross the territories of the Dene and Creek Nations to the Omaha, Ho-chunk and Panka tribes which say the US government has failed to adequately consult them despite the direct effect the pipeline would have on their land and waters.

Indigenous Environmental Network Keep It In The Ground campaign organizer Dallas Goldtooth highlights that people are already mobilizing against the pipeline in the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana, as well as in the Rosebud Indian Reservation and the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

An expansion of the tar sands in northern Alberta would particularly impact the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, the Lubicon Cree First Nation, and the Mikisew Cree First Nation. Dene elder Francois Paulette says, “What can you say? There’s a government in place in the United States that doesn’t care about climate change or the environment. It says to me [the tar sands will expand and are] going to pollute the rivers. Have a bigger impact on the air, the rivers we live along down the Mackenzie River. That’s where the biggest impact will be felt by the Indigenous people.”

Our ally and friend 350.org campaigner Clayton Thomas-Muller says, “Any politician siding with the fossil fuel industry on Keystone, be they named Trudeau or Trump, is in for one hell of a fight. It will be fought tooth and nail.”

The Canadian Press reports, “The presidential approval doesn’t guarantee the pipeline gets built. The removal of one big obstacle in Washington still leaves several sprinkled around the American Midwest, where opponents still hope to trip up the project with protests and lawsuits. The likely epicentre of the coming battle is Nebraska, the very place where opposition to Keystone began years ago. TransCanada must still reach deals with some landowners there, it lacks a state permit and faces possible court challenges there and in South Dakota.”

The Nebraska permit could take the pipeline company 8-24 months to secure.

The Council of Canadians travelled to Washington numerous times to join protests against Keystone XL, including calling on the Canadian embassy in August 2011 to demand that they stop lobbying for the pipeline, participating in the Surround the White House action in November 2011, and the Forward on Climate protest in February 2013.

We will continue to work with allies to oppose the construction of this pipeline and to support a 100 per cent clean energy economy by 2050.