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Reversing Obama’s decision, Trump approves Keystone XL

First proposed in 2008, the 1,179-mile pipeline that is planned to transport oil from Canada to the US gulf coast still lacks approval from Nebraska.

US President Donald Trump has issued a presidential permit that will allow TransCanada Corporation to move forward with the development of the Keystone XL Pipeline after years of delay by his predecessor.

Trump gave his approval for the 1,179-mile pipeline project on Friday morning at the White House alongside TransCanada chief executive Russell Girling, reversing a 2015 decision by former President Barack Obama to stop its development due to potential environmental impact and whether the pipeline would lower oil prices for US consumers.

TransCanada first proposed the pipeline in 2008 to transport oil drilled in Canada to refineries along the US Gulf coast. Keystone XL is estimated to cost around $8 billion and will be able to transport 800,000 barrels of oil per day.

Keystone was politically contentious from the start, facing years of delays until Obama officially struck it down leading up to the COP21 climate conference. But the project was revived after Trump, who favours the fossil fuel industry, won the US election last November. He's tied the pipeline to his overall infrastructure vision as a way to increase jobs and improve the US economy.

“Keystone is the first of many energy and infrastructure projects my administration will approve,” Trump said. “TransCanada will finally be allowed to complete this long overdue project with efficiency and speed.”

Trump addressed a common frustration of the infrastructure industry when he said there is a need to shorten the permitting process for projects.

Norman Anderson, chief executive of consulting firm CG/LA Infrastructure, agreed, saying the industry “requires a push” to get projects moving forward.

“For me the big news isn't even so much XL, it's that the White House, the executive branch has the authority to move infrastructure projects forward,” he said. “That makes sense to move into this transition for more private-sector investment in infrastructure.”

Meeting Trump's approval, however, is not the last obstacle the pipeline faces.

Keystone will likely face more legal challenges from environmentalists and other special interest groups to halt its development, and the project still needs approval at the state level in Nebraska.

Earlier this month, 33 of 49 Nebraska state senators urged their Public Service Commission to approve the pipeline in a letter, citing state and federal studies that show Keystone “could have minimal environmental impacts”. The senators also said the project has the “potential for major economic impact”.

“We are well-versed in the issues and history surrounding the Keystone XL Pipeline project and wholeheartedly support the project moving forward,” the state senators said.