Economic analysis

Keystone XL: a timeline

The pipeline was once expected to be operational as early as 2008

(Paul Sakuma/AP Photo)

For better or worse, it’s been roadblock after roadblock for North America’s most infamous pipeline. Here’s a look at that tortuous timeline:

February 2005 – TransCanada Corp. announces plans to spend $1.7 billion to build a 3,000 km pipeline to move heavy oil from Alberta to Illinois. About 40 per cent of the route would be a conversion of existing pipelines that carry natural gas to handle 400,000 barrels of heavy crude. TransCanada was expected to be operating the pipeline as early as 2008.

September 2007 –
Despite strong opposition from the Canadian Energy and Paperworkers’ Union, who said the pipeline would drive jobs south of the border, the National Energy Board approves the construction of the Canadian portions of the pipeline.

October 2007 – After inking deals for the sale of 435,000 barrels of crude per day, TransCanada announces it plans to expand the project, raising total costs to $5.2 billion. Construction is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2008; the pipeline is expected to be operational by 2009.

March 2008 – In spite of opposition from environmental groups and those who live along the proposed route of the pipeline, the U.S. State Department gives the green light for the pipeline to cross the border, saying: “Canadian oil represents a safe, secure supply for the North American market.”

July 2008 – TransCanada announces a $7 billion expansion to its pipeline system, the the Keystone XL project, to build a 3,200-km pipe linking Alberta’s oil to refineries in Texas. The line is expected to handle 590,000 barrels of oil a day and be operational in 2009.

March 2010 – Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) approves the Keystone XL project. The Natural Resources Defense Council, a non-profit environmental group based in New York, issues a damning report of the Keystone, saying its construction its construction would run against efforts to increase reliance on clean energy sources. The State Department issues its Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which critics say lacks adequate information on a number of potential issues, including greenhouse gas emissions.

June 2010 – A group of 50 members of the U.S. Congress signs a petition addressed to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton calling on the administration to take into account “clean energy and climate change priorities” when studying the Keystone XL project.

July 2010 – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency criticizes the State Department’s Impact Statement, saying it lacks adequate information on greenhouse-gas emissions, air pollution, pipeline safety, as well as the project’s likely impact on wetlands and migratory-bird populations.

October 2010 – Secretary of State Hilary Clinton says she is “inclined” to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

August 2011 – Protests erupt in Washington calling on the Obama administration to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. As many as 500 protesters, including celebrities like Darryl Hannah, are arrested during a sit-in in front of the White House. The State Department releases the final draft of its Impact Statement, which warns that, though no “major environmental risks” have been found, the project would negatively affect “certain cultural resources.”

September 2011– Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama and seven other Nobel Peace Prize laureates write to President Obama urging him to reject the pipeline.

Early November 2011 – Public opposition to the pipeline intensifies. Media reports calculate that anti-Keystone protests in front of the White House have attracted as many as 10,000 protesters. President Obama announces that a decision on whether or not to go forward with the Keystone XL project will be postponed until 2013, or after the 2012 presidential election.

Mid-November 2011 – Keystone pipeline builder TransCanada and Nebraska governor Dave Heineman agree to re-route the pipeline in order to avoid the Sandhills and the Ogallala aquifer, two of the most contentious areas that the proposed pipeline would have crossed according to its original route. Nebraska pledges to approve any construction related to the pipeline. However, the U.S. Secretary of State has the final say on the pipeline’s route.

December 2011 – President Obama signs into law a bill to extend existing payroll tax-cuts. It includes a provision stating that the government must make a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline by Feb. 21, 2012. Republican members of Congress introduced the provision in the bill.

Jan. 18, 2012 – The State Department announces it will not approve the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in its current form but will allow TransCanada to re-apply once it has devised a new route avoiding sensible ecosystems. President Obama says the decision is “not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline,” adding that it was forced by “the arbitrary nature of a deadline.” TransCanada says in a statement it hopes to re-apply and have an in-service date of late 2014.*

*an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that TransCanada hopes to re-apply in 2014.

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