Natural Law Energy, a sovereign organization that represents twenty sovereign members and First Nations, intends to challenge US President Joe Biden’s cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline under the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA) or through their Treaty and other rights as original sovereign people.
This move will constitute another curve in the very long and winding road that is the Keystone XL pipeline’s path through multiple applications, approvals and cancellations.
Keystone XL (KXL) was originally proposed by TransCanada (now TC Energy) in 2008 as an expansion to the original Keystone pipeline that has been operating since 2010. Initially, signs were promising for the project with the US State Department issuing a presidential permit for the pipeline in March of 2008 but by 2015, delays and requirements for additional applications ended in then-president Obama rejecting the permit to build it. In a reversal of fortune, in January 2017 —newly elected president Trump signed executive actions to advance the construction of KXL. The changing of the guard once again doomed KXL in 2021. Within hours of being inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States, President Biden effectively cancelled the Keystone XL pipeline project with an executive order on January 20, 2021.
Along the way, the Alberta government invested in KXL with $1.5 billion in equity investment in 2020 and a $6 billion loan guarantee in 2021 according to their website. If it had been completed, it is estimated the project would have contributed approximately $2.4 billion to Canada’s GDP and an estimated $30 billion in tax and royalty revenues.
In September of 2020, the nations behind Natural Law Energy (NLE) who had already been working for three seasons with traditional governance had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with TC Energy (TCE). NLE was pursuing an equity interest in KXL and other related midstream and power projects across North America.
“It was an equity investment to make NLE part of a limited partnership,” said Travis Meguinis, CEO of Natural Law Energy. “With money dedicated to KXL part ownership and some for other projects throughout Canada and the US.”
Meguinis said there was initial skepticism amongst the First Nations and their leaders over becoming involved with KXL, but the prospect of it providing environmentally responsible resources with returns above $1 billion of investment was worth pursuing. The group anticipated using returns from the project to fund improved services and to advance economic reconciliation to benefit NLE member Nations. These benefits were lost when KXL was cancelled in 2021.
NLE as a sovereign organization intends to create a path forward as TCE moves forward seeking over $15 bn in compensation from the US government for the cancellation of KXL, according to Meguinis.
“Any other course of action without our participation in a claim would be yet another example of First Nations continuing to be marginalized in North America. Our economic and inherent rights need to be recognized. We’re putting together a process that will fit the sovereign nations’ expectations that works on behalf of the sovereign people.”
A big part of the motivation to proceed is the belief that energy resource development can fit within the high environmental standards contemplated by First Nations who have a strong, abiding concern for environmental standards and safety.
“We’re realists,” says Meguinis “We have an understanding and relationship with creation, the constellations, the cosmos, the universe, the sun, the moon, the stars and Mother Earth, and what comes with that understanding is a very large love and respect for nature. But we have to find a balance. We’ve got to find common ground for economic and resource development so we can trade worldwide.”
He advocates for new and innovative monitoring technologies for energy infrastructure with the remote management of an array of sensors to digitally monitor in real-time to manage conditions and emissions and detect leaks. He says Canadian infrastructure can be the greenest and safest method of transportation for all the types of energy we are contemplating.
Meguinis also speaks with humility about being honoured and humbled to support sovereign Nations in taking their rightful place for intergenerational economic reconciliation.
Maureen McCall is an energy professional who writes on issues affecting the energy industry.