Looking Ahead at Biden’s Pipeline Agenda
President Joe Biden’s decision to kill the Keystone XL pipeline has many wondering about other oil and gas infrastructure projects and for good reason. Biden’s decision on Keystone XL showed he would stand with anti-fossil fuel activists rather than science, the voices of prominent labor unions, and the United States’ most vital trading partner.
Biden’s Executive Action
Recall that Keystone XL would transport oil sands from Canada to refineries in the United States. The project received final permit approval from the Trump Administration in 2019 and would provide thousands of jobs to both Canadian and American construction workers. Over the years, the project enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support, including strong support in the U.S. Senate.
President Biden’s stroke of the pen came with a heavy cost. TC Energy, the Canadian energy company behind Keystone XL, has already laid off more than 1,000 of its employees who worked on the project.
In an email obtained by POLITICO, TC Energy Keystone XL President Richard Prior said that a majority of those being laid off would be union workers:
“Over 1,000 positions will be eliminated in the coming weeks, the majority of these unionized workers representing the building trades.”
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a well-known liberal political figure, spoke out against the decision before it was made, stating simply that he has made his case in support of Keystone XL to what is now the Biden Administration:
“The Prime Minister stated that Canada has made the case for the project, including recently to President-elect Biden, and Ambassador Hillman and others in government have also been speaking with high-level officials in the incoming administration.”
Keystone XL is one of a number of pipeline infrastructure projects which were either granted approval or began being developed during the Trump Administration. Experts, industry, and politicians are now looking at what other key pipeline projects the Biden Administration might target next. The biggest project grabbing headlines is Line 5 in Michigan.
Back in November, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the state would be revoking easements the state gave to Line 5 operator Enbridge in 1953. Opponents to Line 5, which runs from Wisconsin and through the Straits of Mackinaw in Michigan to refineries in Ontario, have pressed the state’s Democratic Governor for years to revoke the easements. The state and Enbridge both filed lawsuits in Ingham County Circuit Court in Michigan.
In an interview with The Center Square, Enbridge spokesperson Ryan Duffy stated Michigan’s actions will severely impact operations throughout Ontario:
“Several refineries that rely heavily on Line 5 oil will be severely impacted, while the fractionators in Michigan and Ontario that use Line 5 product to manufacture propane used to heat homes and for other purposes will be forced to close.”
Line 5 is definitely a project to be on the lookout for in the coming weeks and months as the state has given Enbridge until May to cease operations.
Another project to keep an eye out for is the Line 3 replacement. In December, Enbridge received the last go-ahead it needed from Minnesota’s regulatory agencies to begin construction on a multibillion Line 3 pipeline replacement project.
The final approvals, which were issued by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the independent Public Utilities Commission, came as Line 3 had faced years of legal and regulatory challenges from activists. And, despite years of extensive safety reviews by both state and federal agencies, activists continue to block progress on Line 3.
The Canadian portion of Line 3, which runs from northern Alberta through parts of North and South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, is already completed. However, the portion in the United States didn’t begin construction until December, when it received final approvals.
Communities in northern Minnesota have already felt the economic impact of Line 3’s construction that began earlier this month. For Bill Batchelder, President of the Bemidji Woolen Mills, construction on the U.S. portion of Line 3 has brought hope to the local community and those who have been impacted by COVID-19:
“After a year where too many businesses across Northern Minnesota have struggled to survive, what we have seen in the past week is an amazing economic ray of hope. When the process to review Line 3 started, we supported the project because it makes sense to replace something old with something that is newer and better. Line 3 now also represents a real chance for many businesses to survive this horrific year and shows that this project is delivering on the promise of its positive economic impact.”
With just about a week into the Biden Administration, it is likely that Biden’s order to stop Keystone XL could be just the beginning. During his campaign, President Biden promised labor unions he would deliver on creating jobs in clean energy by replacing those in oil and natural gas. Now, as major infrastructure projects get put on hold, questions remain as to exactly what clean energy jobs are going to be replacing them.