The move overturns a 2015 decision by former President Barack Obama. During his campaign, Trump vowed to support energy companies and advocate for new infrastructure. After taking office, one of his first acts was to invite TransCanada , the pipeline’s builder, to reapply for a presidential permit for the $8 billion project, which will span 1,179 miles (1,897 kilometers) and run through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.
“This is a significant milestone for the Keystone XL project,” said Russ Girling, TransCanada’s president and chief executive officer, in a company statement announcing the approval. “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 America’s energy infrastructure.”
The approval comes as another controversial project stalled by the Obama administration, the Dakota Access pipeline, nears completion after legal actions by protesters fell short. Energy Transfer Partners LP, the majority owner, is now filling the pipeline, and has said it will begin shipping oil in the first half.
Political Flash Points
Both Keystone XL, designed to carry 830,000 barrels of oil a day, and Dakota Access, with a capacity of 470,000 barrels, have been flash points for fossil fuel opponents who argue they’ll damage the environment, exacerbate global warming and offer minimal financial advantages to the country.
Earlier this month, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who formerly served as Exxon Mobil Corp.’s chairman and CEO, recused himself from the agency’s deliberations. Tillerson was a vocal advocate for Keystone while at Exxon, saying it would improve U.S. energy security and competitiveness.
TransCanada also reapplied for approval in Nebraska, a state that created legal hurdles for the company during the initial project review. Keystone generated heated opposition from landowners in the pipeline’s path who challenged state laws that helped determine the route. TransCanada eventually surrendered to a review by the state Public Service Commission before the project was rejected in its entirety by Obama.