This time, said McKibben, opponents will be helped by depressed oil and gas prices, which make the pipeline less financially viable than before.
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a National Economic Council meeting.
After having its first two applications rejected, Calgary-based TransCanada submitted its latest application for the 1,800-kilometre artery in late January specifically at the request of U.S. President Donald Trump.
"We will never allow an inch of this foreign steel pipeline that can pollute our water and take away our property rights and has threatened treaty rights of tribes here", said Jane Kleeb, president of the Bold Alliance, an advocacy group started in Nebraska to oppose the project. "This critical infrastructure project has been studied longer than any pipeline project in USA history with exhaustive reviews by the State Department concluding that the project is safe for the environment and the best option for transporting domestic crude and Canadian oil to US refineries". And, in one of his first acts, he issued an executive order urging TransCanada to apply for a new permit and ordering the State Department to approve it as expeditiously as possible.
The pipeline's fate once again rests with the Nebraska Public Service Commission, an independently elected group of four Republicans and one Democrat. But his administration has already given Keystone a pass. TransCanada has already acquired the steel for the project, and the White House has said it's too hard to impose Trump's requirement on a project already under construction. Still, even with today's permit, the pipeline's exact route is controversial and the company running it, TransCanada, needs to get additional building permits in several states.
"It's going to be an incredible pipeline", he said, according to the Associated Press. Protesters also promise they will try to stop the project, which would help carry Alberta crude to US refineries. There the Keystone XL pipeline will connect with a preexisting line.
Trump has given TransCanada Corp. the cross-border construction permit it fought to obtain under President Barack Obama.
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The main opposition coalition includes landowners, environmental advocates and Native Americans who see the pipeline as harmful to their homeland.
Activists have already begun to protest the pipeline's construction.
In response, TransCanada filed a challenge under Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement, alleging the USA government breached its legal commitments under NAFTA.
The presidential permit for Keystone XL did little to assuage concerns Friday from the investment community that the project, which has stoked controversy since its inception almost a decade ago, still faces a litany of challenges. Other estimates peg Keystone's job creation numbers closer to just a few thousand, depending on varying parameters like whether the job is full-time and directly created by the pipeline.
Although the State Department noted the economic impact in its decision, the project will result in only 35 permanent jobs after initial construction.
"We greatly appreciate President Trump's administration for reviewing and approving this important initiative and we look forward to working with them as we continue to invest in and strengthen North American's energy infrastructure", he said in a statement.