The Trump administration approved the final stages of the Keystone XL oil pipeline Friday.
The approval comes 16 months after the Obama administration rejected the project over concerns it would tarnish the U.S.’s reputation as a leader in the fight against global warming.
The Department of State granted TransCanada, the company building Keystone XL, permission to “construct, connect, operate, and maintain pipeline facilities at the U.S.-Canadian border in Phillips County, Montana for the importation of crude oil.”
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon, Jr. signed the cross-border permit after officials reviewed TransCanada’s application in accordance with a January executive order.
TransCanada submitted an application to build Keystone XL in September 2008, and the Obama administration rejected the pipeline in late 2015. The company sued the administration for $15 billion under the North American Free Trade Agreement, but that suit will be moot.
“We greatly appreciate President Trump’s administration for reviewing and approving this important initiative and we look forward to working with them as we continue to invest in and strengthen North America’s energy infrastructure,” Russ Girling, CEO of TransCanada, said in a statement.
TransCanada can start building the final phase of the pipeline, a 1,200-mile section from Alberta, Canada to Steele City, Neb. From there, the already operating southern length of Keystone XL will carry Albertan oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries. Keystone XL is designed to carry 800,000 barrels per day of oil sands to refineries.
Environmentalists have already vowed legal challenges, and have planned protests along the pipeline’s route. Activists are working to turn Nebraska landowners against the project.
“A federal approval of the permit is not the end of the line for this project; there’s still many obstacles,” Anthony Swift, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, told Bloomberg.
“There’s legal challenges, there’s the Nebraska issues and, frankly, there are the economic and market obstacles,” Swift said.
Environmentalists plan to file suit against the State Department for violating the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for relying on a three-year-old review of the pipeline in its approval.
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