President Trump signed an executive order on Jan. 24, supporting construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. A U.S. official says the State Department is ready to give its approval. Evan Vucci/AP
The State Department will approve the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline, a U.S. official tells NPR. That will set the stage for President Trump to reverse a decision former President Barack Obama made in 2015 to reject the project.
Four days after Trump was sworn into office he invited TransCanada to resubmit its application for the pipeline. Trump also directed the State Department to make its national-interest determination within 60 days. That deadline is Monday.
A U.S. official tells NPR the State Department will find that building the pipeline is in the national interest. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was CEO of ExxonMobil and recused himself from the review. Undersecretary for Political Affairs Tom Shannon will sign the determination.
The proposed pipeline is controversial because of the oil it would transport. It’s designed to move crude from Canada’s oil sands in Alberta, south to the U.S. Gulf Coast where it could be refined or exported. Environmentalists oppose oil sands because producing it requires additional processing that emits more pollution.
“The same communities who defeated this pipeline before — Indigenous leaders, landowners, farmers, and grassroots activists — are ready to fight again,” says 350.org Executive Director May Boeve.
That fight is expected to take place in states the pipeline would travel through, especially in Nebraska where some landowners and environmentalists have led a years-long legal battle to stop the pipeline.
The oil industry and some labor unions have supported the pipeline, largely for the thousands of construction jobs the project would provide. But those jobs are temporary. Once built the State Department has estimated the pipeline will employ about 35 people.