Article by: Owen Fender

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Since its proposal in 2008, the Keystone XL pipeline extension has been a controversial issue. It has been denied, then approved, and now the Biden administration has denied the project its permits once again. This pipeline project has a complicated history with advocates both for and against its construction. Because of this, it is important to discuss both sides of the argument. 

History of the Pipeline 

In 2008, the TC Energy Corporation proposed the KXL project to act as a new segment to their existing Keystone pipeline. This new segment would act as a shortcut and has the potential to transport 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day from Alberta, Canada to Steele City, Nebraska. After outrage over the environmental harm, danger to public health, and possible contamination of drinking water, President Obama vetoed the project in 2015. 

Once the Trump administration took office, the project was up and running again and the president even granted the project a permit to build across the border into Canada. The Trump administration had already lost two lawsuits over this order after using faulty environmental reviews and is currently being sued by numerous Native American tribes over violating treaties to build the pipeline in Native American territory. After taking office, President Biden immediately vetoed the project for a second time as part of his administration’s mission to stop America’s reliance on fossil fuels. 


Those who have advocated for the KXL project from the beginning have a strong argument. KXL’s largest benefit will be the massive amount of crude oil being brought to the United States daily to be refined. This new pipeline might be able to single-handedly bring down gas prices in the U.S. However, this is a debated opinion as the oil from KXL would be primarily exported overseas, and could raise the price of gas in America. 

Another distinct benefit of the pipeline is the numerous jobs the project brought to the towns along the route of the pipeline. After the pipeline was halted TC Energy Corporation released a statement that detailed the elimination of over 1,000 jobs. This is disastrous for the workers, their families, and their communities. 

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Take the town of Oyen, in Alberta, Canada for example. In October of 2020, the town’s population doubled when energy workers moved in to lay the pipeline; and this boost saved small businesses from going under due to COVID-19. When president Biden shut down the project, those same businesses were struggling to stay afloat. To the residents of Oyen, a project that once brought over $100,000 in rental income each month is now only a reminder of what their small town used to have. 


One negative is if the pipeline were to leak, the environment around the leak would be crippled. And this pipeline crosses over some extremely important environmental regions. One example is the Ogallala aquifer in Nebraska, which supplies drinking water to millions of Americans, as well as serving as the source of 30% of America’s irrigation water. If this aquifer was to become contaminated, not only would millions of people be without clean drinking water, but a large portion of America’s crops would die.

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The original Keystone pipeline has leaked more than a dozen times since 2010. A recent leak in 2019 leaked more than 378,000 gallons of crude oil in North Dakota. And TC Energy Corporation’s scientists admitted in a report these leaks are due to subpar anti-corrosion coating on their pipes. And according to the EPA, tar sands oil releases 17% more carbon than other kinds of crude oil. So regardless of a leak, the pipeline could harm the environment. 

Another negative to the KXL project is it continues our long history of shameful Native American relations. The pipeline violates the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1886. Because of this treaty, the TC Energy Corporation must follow tribal environmental laws while on tribal land. And this treaty was not upheld. By vetoing the project, we are sending a message to tribal leaders that say we are willing to respect our treaties and start a new chapter in the history of Native American and U.S relations. 

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From debates over climate change and our nation’s use of fossil fuels to debates over Native American rights; this project represents many pertinent issues. Issues we are going to disagree on. For the workers on the KXL pipeline, its cancellation has cost their families a source of income. On the other hand, members of Native American tribes see this cancellation as a blessing and a sign of a healthier relationship between the tribe and the U.S government. We are all going to have different opinions on this project, but it is important to discuss both sides of the argument.