The Keystone Pipeline transports crude oil from the oil fields of the Athabasca oil sands deposits in the western Canadian province of Alberta to oil refineries in the US states of Illinois , Oklahoma and Nebraska . The route from Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska is 3,456 km; the extension to Cushing, Oklahoma is 480 km. The pipeline is 30 and 36 inches (76 and 91 cm) in diameter.
An extension under the name Keystone XL was intended to replace the old line with a direct and much larger line. The project was controversial because the extraction of crude oil from oil sands requires a lot of energy and causes severe environmental damage. In addition, the “fourth phase” route was problematic because it crosses the area of the Ogallala aquifer . This is essential for agriculture in the Great Plains . Damage would have had unforeseeable consequences for food production in the United States. In November 2015, US President Barack Obama finally stopped building the Keystone XL; his successor in office Donald Trump approved its further construction on March 24, 2017, before his successor, Joe Biden , withdrew the approval on the first day of his term of office. In June 2021, the operating company finally gave up the project.
TransCanada proposed the project in 2005. In 2008 the US oil company ConocoPhillips took a 50% stake, but in 2009 TransCanada bought back the stake in order to be the sole owner again. It took two years to get all the necessary permits; the actual construction time was another two years. The pipeline went into operation in 2010. In a 2017 leak , more than 407,000 gallons of crude oil spilled onto agricultural land in South Dakota. In 2019, near the city of Edinburgh in North Dakota , 9,120 barrels (1,450,080 liters) of crude oil leaked and seeped into the ground, which was then removed.
The planned addition and expansion of the Keystone XL to the Keystone pipeline should finally lead over 2,700 km, with a diameter of almost one meter and thus a transport volume of approx. 700,000 barrels of crude oil per day to the US state of Texas on the Gulf of Mexico . Because the pipeline crossed the Canadian-American border , it was a US foreign policy project under US law . The US President and his administration can act and make decisions without the participation of the US Congress.
The project was politically controversial. Supplying the US economy with oil from the North American continent is, as the promotion of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) shows, a goal of national policy in order to become more independent of oil imports from conflict regions. Unions spoke out in favor of the project; During the construction period, the project should employ around 3,900 people, but only 35 in operation. Environmental concerns speak against this: the pipeline runs over groundwater reservoirs, which are important for the agriculture of large areas of the USA.
The decision on the construction of the northern part from the Canadian border to Oklahoma should initially be made in early 2013 at the earliest after the US State Department announced in November 2011 that it would investigate alternative routes. At the end of 2011, the US Congress tried to put the government under pressure within 60 days. Under these circumstances, President Obama refused to take an examination and on January 19, 2012, dismissed the project because he did not consider a well-founded assessment of the content to be possible within the short, given period. Massive protests by environmentalists, several Nobel Prize winners and prominent personalities such as Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama also contributed to stopping the project in favor of alternative planning .
The southern portion of the Keystone XL project from Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast continued and began operations in January 2014. It connects the oil handling center in Cushing , Oklahoma with the coast of the Gulf of Mexico in Port Arthur , Texas.
In March 2013, the operating company submitted a new application. In it, the route was changed in such a way that the ecologically particularly sensitive sand hills in Nebraska are no longer crossed. In a speech on measures to combat climate change in the summer of 2013, President Obama made approval of the Keystone XL pipeline conditional on the USA capping its CO 2 emissions and making progress in climate policy and energy saving . The pipeline construction issue has been seen in the US as a symbol of the Obama administration's determination to make climate change a president's political project.
In an environmental impact assessment carried out on behalf of the State Department in January 2014, it came to the conclusion that oil from Canadian oil sands releases around 17% more CO 2 than the average of all oil deliveries in the USA. Otherwise, the environmental impact of the Keystone XL pipeline is comparable to that of all other projects.
In early 2015, a court in the US state of Nebraska removed further legal obstacles to the project. In late January, the US Congress approved the construction of the pipeline with 270 votes to 152 (including 29 votes from Democratic MPs). The law required the government to build the pipeline. As previously announced, President Obama vetoed it on the grounds of national interest that environmental and foreign policy interests required careful consideration and investigation. Accordingly, he will wait for the reports and contradict the early decision by Congress. Around the same time, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) questioned the State Department's study and saw significantly higher risks from the Keystone project than assumed in previous studies.
In September 2015, Hillary Clinton spoke out against the project for the first time in the presidential election campaign. She said, "Building the pipeline is not what we should be doing to fight global warming."
In early November 2015, the operating consortium TransCanada Corporation surprisingly asked the US State Department to suspend the testing process. In addition to the ongoing criticism, the reasons were the lower oil prices and political developments in Canada, where in May 2015 Alberta received a new provincial government with a critical stance on oil production and in October 2015, Justin Trudeau, a new prime minister, was elected , who supported the project, but with significantly less commitment than its predecessor Stephen Harper .
As a result, Obama rejected the application on November 6, 2015. He pointed out that the pipeline could neither create jobs nor significantly improve US energy supplies. With reference to the UN climate conference in Paris , he raised the claim of the USA to be a leader in climate protection and said that the construction of the pipeline would not go with it. Environmentalist Bill McKibben called the statement a turning point for US climate policy; For the first time, a top politician had stopped a large project because of its effects on the climate.
Three days after taking office, the new US President Donald Trump signed decrees on January 24, 2017 to continue building the two controversial transnational pipeline projects Dakota-Access and Keystone, which were stopped by Obama . On March 24, 2017, Trump finally approved the project. Environmental groups and representatives of indigenous tribes sued against the renewed approval. In July 2020, the US Supreme Court ruled that Keystone XL required extensive environmental impact assessments before construction could proceed. Joe Biden was sworn in as US President on January 20, 2021 . On the same day, he revoked the building permit for Keystone XL by decree. In June 2021, the operating company abandoned the pipeline project.
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