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President Joe Biden signed an executive order on his first day in office that rescinded predecessor Donald Trump’s decision to let the pipeline project cross the Canada-U.S. border.

“He’s withdrawn the permit, he’s not going back.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

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen, all 20, drown in the Sooke River in February 2020. (Contributed photos)
Coroner’s report confirms cause of death of three men at Sooke River in 2020

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen drown while ‘puddle-jumping’ in pickup truck

File
The Pacheedaht First Nation is planning a $1-million expansion to its campground in Port Renfrew. (Pixabay photo)
Expanded camping announced for Pacheedaht Campground

$1-million project is part of the B.C. Rural Economic Recovery program

Sooke Road will be down to a single lane Thursday night while crews work on a water main connection. (Pixabay stock image)
Sooke Road down to single lane for water main connection

Night work scheduled for Thursday, early Friday morning

Soloman and Zev Nagler enjoy time on the beach at Witty’s Lagoon Regional Park on a summer day. The Capital Regional District is in the process of determining whether to institute parking fees at this and eight other CRD parks. (Black Press Media file photo)
CRD parks committee rejects new Greater Victoria parking fees – again

More arguments against fee hikes, pay parking at nine parks, brought forward by committee members

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Feb. 23

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media File Photo)
POLL: Are you struggling with Greater Victoria’s cost of housing?

While Victoria remains one of the most expensive cities in the country… Continue reading

Nanaimo-raised singer Allison Crowe with director Zack Snyder on the set of ‘Man of Steel’ in 2011. Crowe performs a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in the upcoming director’s cut of ‘Justice League.’ (Photo courtesy Clay Enos)
Island-raised musician records song for upcoming ‘Justice League’ film

Allison Crowe’s rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah closes out the movie

A 50-year-old man was stabbed in an altercation that started with a disagreement about physical distancing. (File photo)
Argument about physical distancing escalates to stabbing in Nanaimo

Victim, struck with coffee cup and then stabbed, suffers minor injuries; suspect arrested

A battery electric-hybrid ferry, pictured here, is expected to make its way to Vancouver Island in late 2021, says B.C. Ferries. (Submitted photo)
Hybrid ferry for Gabriola-Nanaimo route launches in shipyard in Europe

Two hybrid vessels to replace MV Quinsam by early 2022, says B.C. Ferries

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

The Port of Nanaimo has signed a 50-year-agreement with DP World around short-sea shipping operations at Duke Point Terminal. (News Bulletin file photo)
Lease ‘important first step’ in $105-million Nanaimo port expansion project

Port of Nanaimo and DP World sign 50-year shipping operations agreement for Duke Point

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

Most Read