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President Joe Biden signed an executive order on his first day in office that rescinded predecessor Donald Trump’s decision to let the pipeline project cross the Canada-U.S. border.

“He’s withdrawn the permit, he’s not going back.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

The 5th Street Bridge requires structural improvements, new coating to repair and prevent corrosion, and deck repairs. File photo
City of Courtenay awards contract for 5th Street Bridge project

The City of Courtenay has awarded the contract for the rehabilitation of… Continue reading

Pumpjacks pump crude oil near Halkirk, Alta., June 20, 2007.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal
Gas prices jump in the Valley – and experts predict prices to rise even more

“We still could be talking about record prices…”

NIC Practical Nursing instructor Barb McPherson (right) is pictured with student Rebecca Wood in 2018 in NIC’s SIM lab. NIC photo
Learn about Practical Nursing opportunities for Island students

Students interested in exploring a future in health care are invited to… Continue reading

The Comox Valley Cycling Coalition is hoping to see more bike lines in the Cumberland area. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Cycling coalition wants better bike links for Cumberland

Group says members want more connections with Comox Valley

The Courtenay Legion has identified 16 homeless veterans living in the Comox Valley. File photo
Courtenay Legion unites with Qualicum to help homeless veterans

Last year’s Point-in-Time (PIT) homeless count conducted in the Comox Valley identified… Continue reading

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

Activists from the Fairy Creek Blockades hold the injunction application notice which was submitted by logging company Teal Jones to the B.C. Supreme Court. The application, which asks to have blockaders removed from the sites that stop access to cut blocks, is set to be heard on March 4. (Photo contributed/Joshua Wright)
Activists hunker down to protect Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew from logging

Forest company Teal Cedar applies for injunction to remove seven-month-old blockades

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (File photo)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

(File photo)
RCMP arrest man after report of gun-toting threat-maker near Parksville schools

43-year-old man taken into custody; students at nearby schools were asked to stay inside

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Most Read