In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian

‘Keystone is dead’: former senior Obama adviser

It’s time for Canada to get over the demise of the Keystone XL pipeline expansion

A senior adviser to two former U.S. presidents delivered a stark message Friday to Canadians hoping for the resurrection of the Keystone XL pipeline: get over it.

The project is gone and not coming back, said John Podesta, who was White House chief of staff in the final years of Bill Clinton’s second term and a senior counsellor to Barack Obama.

“I think Keystone’s dead,” Podesta told an online panel discussion hosted by Canada 2020, a prominent think-tank with deep ties to the federal Liberal party.

President Joe Biden signed an executive order on his first day in office that rescinded predecessor Donald Trump’s decision to let the pipeline project cross the Canada-U.S. border.

“He’s withdrawn the permit, he’s not going back. He made that commitment,” Podesta said of the president.

“We’ve just got to get over it and move on and find these places on clean energy where we can co-operate… I think there’s no turning back at this point.”

Podesta was joined by Gerald Butts, a former principal secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who’s now vice-chairman at the political-risk consultancy Eurasia Group.

Butts was less declarative about Keystone XL and acknowledged the impact the decision will have on a Canadian economy that’s heavily dependent on the health of the Alberta oilpatch.

But he agreed the time has come to move on.

“There’s no changing the current administration’s mind,” Butts said.

“We should spend as much time as possible on the things where we agree and minimize our disagreements, as most productive relationships do.”

The expansion, first proposed in 2008, would have ferried more than 800,000 additional barrels a day of diluted bitumen from Alberta to refineries and ports along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Its demise, Butts said, has more to do with an “astronomical increase” in domestic oil and gas production in the U.S. in the intervening years than anything Canada could ever say or do.

“Presidents Trump, Obama and Biden had something that no president really since Eisenhower, maybe even Truman, has had at their disposal when it comes to oil and gas, and that is choices,” he said.

“They’ve exercised those choices to the detriment of the Keystone pipeline and to the broader Canadian economy.”

Biden’s critics, meanwhile, show no signs of planning to give up the fight.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, whose provincial government is invested in Keystone XL to the tune of about $1 billion, has all but declared war, promising legal action and calling on the federal government to consider “proportionate economic consequences.”

Republicans on Capitol Hill, particularly those representing Midwest states with thousands of jobs dependent on the project, have also continued to question the president’s priorities.

The Keystone XL decision quickly focused attention on the potential fates of two other prominent cross-border pipelines, both owned by Calgary-based Enbridge Inc.

One is Line 3, which crosses the Canada-U.S. border in Minnesota and links the Alberta oilsands with the westernmost tip of Lake Superior. It’s set for a $9.3-billion replacement.

The other, Line 5, picks up where Line 3 ends and runs through the Great Lakes to Sarnia, Ont. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wants Line 5 shut down, an order Enbridge is fighting in court. It would rather replace a portion of the pipe.

The White House has not signalled a direction on those projects except to say they are “part of what our climate team is looking at and assessing,” in the words of press secretary Jen Psaki.

That may reflect the competing interests that are likely at work within the Biden administration itself, said James Lindsay, senior vice-president at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“This is a case in which you have elements of the Biden coalition or constituency, in essence, at odds,” Lindsay told a briefing last week with the Washington Foreign Press Center.

Climate hawks want pipelines shut down to limit U.S. dependency on fossil fuels, while labour leaders and economic experts argue in favour of good, sustainable jobs, he said.

Proponents also argue that since both Enbridge projects involve replacing existing lines, the case for allowing them to proceed should be easier to make, he added.

“The challenge for a Biden administration is the reality that even when you want to work with close partners, there are going to be issues over which you disagree,” Lindsay said.

“You want to work with others that means to some extent you have to acknowledge their interests. But at times your own interests may take you in a different direction.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 12, 2021.

READ MORE: Biden will try to close Guantanamo after ‘robust’ review

READ MORE: Canadians divided over Keystone pipeline, despite U.S. president’s permit pullback

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

City of Red Deer has nearly doubled its active COVID-19 case count since Feb. 10 and has 75.6 per cent of the Central zone’s active cases. (File photo)
Another new high: Red Deer hits 574 active COVID-19 cases

Province reports 13 new COVID-19 deaths, 430 new cases

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported 11 additional deaths over the past 24 hours. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta
Red Deer active COVID-19 cases drop slightly

Province reports 267 additional COVID-19 cases, 11 new deaths

On Monday, Feb. 22, Island Health listed Glacier View Secondary on 241 Beacher Drive in Courtenay as having a COVID-19 exposure Feb. 17 and 18. Black Press file photo
Red Deer sets new COVID-19 case record

There are now 565 active cases in Red Deer

Across the province, there are 2,738 active cases of COVID-19, with 18,417 recovered cases. There have been 288 deaths from the virus in Alberta since the beginning of the pandemic. (File photo)
Red Deer has 564 of central zone’s 766 active COVID-19 cases

Government of Alberta identifies 328 new COVID-19 cases Sunday

COVID
Red Deer up to 546 active cases of COVID-19

Province added 380 additional cases Saturday

Bookings for COVID-19 vaccines for people age 75 or older start Wednesday. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Updated: Delays for seniors booking for vaccine appointments

By 9:20 a.m. Wednesday, 4,500 seniors had booked their appointments

Students and staff at Gateway Christian School wore pink Wednesday in support of Pink Shirt Day, a worldwide anti-bullying initiative that was started in 2007. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Public Schools)
Students, central Alberta community celebrate Pink Shirt Day

Mayor of Sylvan Lake Sean McIntyre supports anti-bullying cause

Minister Rick Wilson poses with Katie at the Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin, both wearing her Pink Shirt Day design. Facebook/ Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin.
Wetaskiwin Boys and Girls club Pink Shirt day design focuses on kindness

Katie with the Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin created this year’s Pink Shirt Day design.

Black Press File Photo
Valentine’s Day shooting in Maskwacis leaves one male in hospital, one male in custody

19-year-old Francis Edward Nepoose from Maskwacis has been charged with attempted murder.

Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Anne Kirker is expected to sentence Satnam Singh Sandhu on Friday. Red Deer Advocate file photo
Updated: Sylvan Lake man pleads guilty to manslaughter for strangling wife in 2019

Kulvinder Sandhu was strangled and died in hospital several days later

Sentencing delayed in the stabbing death of Samantha Sharpe, of Sunchild First Nation. (Red Deer Advocate file photo)
Central Alberta man not criminally responsible for killing his father in 2020: judge

Psychiatrist testified Nicholas Johnson was psychotic when he killed his father

The cover of “Hometown Asylum: A History and Memoir of Institutional Care.” (Submitted)
Ponoka-born author writes history of old mental hospital

“Hometown Asylum: A History and Memoir of Institutional Care” covers 1911 to 1971

Jacqueline Buffalo. (Photo submitted)
TikTok connects Indigenous women during pandemic

Maskwacis influencers share their stories

Most Read