Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas A. Shannon Jr on March 24 issued a presidential permit to TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, authorizing the Canadian company to construct, operate and maintain pipeline facilities at the US-Canadian border in Phillips County, Mont., for the importation of crude oil from Canada's tar sands. The Trump administration's State Department is headed by former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, who backs the pipeline. However, Tillerson recused himself from the decision after environmental groups objected that it would be a conflict of interest for him to decide the pipeline's fate.
The State Department reviewed TransCanada's application in accordance with Executive Order 13337 of April 30, 2004, signed by President George W. Bush, and President Trump's Jan.y 24, 2017 Presidential Memorandum Regarding Construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
The permit reverses then President Barack Obama's November 2015 decision to reject the pipeline. "America is now a global leader when it comes to taking serious action to fight climate change, and frankly, approving this project would have undercut that leadership," Obama said then.
"Today we begin to make things right," President Trump said after the State Department issued its order. "TransCanada will finally be allowed to complete this long-overdue project with efficiency and with speed."
The $8 billion project still faces litigation over the route brought by Native American tribes, landowners and environmental groups. "The Keystone XL pipeline is a disaster for people, wildlife and the planet," said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Trump administration is taking us dangerously off course by approving this dirty, dangerous pipeline. We don’t have four years to wait to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and avoid a climate catastrophe." (ENS, NYT, March 24)