Keystone XL Pipeline

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The Keystone XL Pipeline is a proposed expansion of the operational Keystone Pipeline, to transport crude oil from the Athabasca Tar Sands in northeastern Alberta, Canada to refineries in Illinois and Oklahoma, and further to the U.S. Gulf Coast.[1]

Project Summary [1]

  • Company: TransCanada
  • Construction: Aiming to complete construction by end of 2012.
  • Cost: $12.2 Billion
  • Size: 36-inch underground pipeline
  • Capacity: 750,000 bpd

Permitting Status

  • TransCanada officials are surveying Montana land and talking to landowners.
  • Montana refineries already have their supplies contracted
  • The application to FERC for what is called an "open season" permit should occur in fall 2008.[2]

Project Description

The proposed Keystone Gulf Coast Expansion Project (Keystone XL) is complementary to the Keystone Pipeline and would serve existing refineries and markets on the U.S. Gulf Coast in Texas.


Approximately 1,690 miles (2,720 kilometres) of new pipeline construction is proposed as follows:

  • The section extending from Cushing, Oklahoma to Port Arthur, Texas is approximately 478 miles (769 km) in length and would also include an approximate 50-mile (80-km) pipeline from Liberty County, Texas to Houston, Texas.
  • The section from Hardisty south to Steele City, Nebraska includes the following Canadian and U.S. segments:
  • The Canadian portion from Hardisty, Alberta to Monchy, Saskatchewan, on the Canadian border, is approximately 327 miles (527 km).
  • The U.S. portion starts at Morgan on the Montana border and extends southeast through South Dakota and Nebraska to Steele City for approximately 836 miles (1,345 km). At Steele City, the pipeline connects to the 296-mile (477-km) long, 36-inch extension currently planned as part of the Keystone Pipeline.
  • Alternative terminal and delivery points are being considered as part of the project’s development.[2]


Citigroup Global Markets Inc., Greenwich Capital Markets, Inc., J.P. Morgan Securities Inc., Banc of America Securities LLC and Barclays Capital Inc. are the largest underwriters in what appears to be the underwriting of construction of the Keystone Pipeline for ConocoPhillips of up to $400 million.[3]

TransCanada Pipeline USA Ltd on March 29, 2007 completed a $1,000,000,000 loan from Citibank. [4]

State Resolutions and Job Creation

In February 2013, the Center for Media and Democracy reported on state resolutions regarding approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. Mississippi, Michigan, Minnesota, and Missouri introduced bills that seemed to include a model American Legislative Exchange Council bill and the TransCanada Corporation's main points of support. The Michigan, Minnesota, and Mississippi legislation reveals identical language from TransCanada's "backgrounder." [3] Missouri's resolution very closely resembles the ALEC resolution in support of the Keystone XL pipeline. Both the ALEC and TransCanada resolutions have acted as major influences with these states legislature. In the past few months, Ohio, Kansas, and Indiana have introduced resolutions that mirror the TransCanada "backgrounder," similar to Michigan, Minnesota, and Mississippi. Lobbyists from TransCanada, local affiliates of the American Petroleum Institute and the Chamber of Commerce have been regularly attending committee meetings to push for Keystone XL. The Michigan resolution was passed in a 5-1 vote during a hearing in the Senate Energy and Technology Committee. Two weeks later, a house version of the bill was passed in a 16-0 vote in the House Energy and Technology Committee. Not one voice of opposition was heard in either of these two hearings. The bill passed a floor vote in the house 88-22. Some of these states have yet to pass the resolutions in the House but are expected to hold hearings for their versions of the bill soon.

Across the country environmental activists have been protesting the Keystone XL pipeline, even with very little state House opposition. Grassroot organizations have been pushing to fight these resolutions by making petitions and engaging supporters to stay active in formal protests to stop the pipeline. More than 58,000 people have stood up and continue to oppose Keystone XL.[4]

The $5.3 billion dollar project describes itself as "the largest infrastructure project currently proposed in the United States." TransCanada Corp's website claims the Keystone XL project would create a total of 16,000 permanent jobs. The Canadian Energy Research Institute predicts that Keystone XL will add $172 billion to America's gross domestic product by 2035. In reality, a Cornell University study suggests the number of jobs the pipeline would create is closer to 2,500. A report from the U.S State Department found that the pipeline would create approximately 42,100 temporary jobs for a one to two year period.[5] The U.S State Department has its obligation to consider all the factors including, energy security, health, environmental, cultural, economic, and foreign policy concerns while reviewing this application.[6]

Tar sands and Koch Industries

A February 2010 SolveClimate News analysis, based on publicly available records, found that Koch Industries is responsible for close to 25 percent of the oil tar sands crude that is imported into the United States, and is positioned to benefit from Keystone. A Koch Industries operation in Calgary, Alberta, called Flint Hills Resources Canada LP, supplies about 250,000 barrels of tar sands oil a day to an oil refinery in Minnesota, also owned by the Koch brothers. Flint Hills Resources Canada also operates a crude oil terminal in Hardisty, Alberta, the starting point of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline. The company's website says it is "among Canada's largest crude oil purchasers, shippers and exporters." Koch Industries also owns Koch Exploration Canada, L.P., an oil sands-focused exploration company also based in Calgary that acquires, develops and trades petroleum properties.[7]

Public opposition

About 750 U.S. landowners that would be affected by the project - who live along the proposed pipeline route through Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas - have refused to allow the company, TransCanada Corp, on their land. Locals in east Texas accuse TransCanada's agents of threatening them with compulsory purchase and of dismissing their concerns about safety in case of a pipeline leak. The pipeline crosses one of the world's largest aquifers in Nebraska, which provides drinking water to eight states and irrigates about a third of the farmland in the midwest, and will also cross many lakes in Texas. President Obama initially rejected the pipeline in January 2012, saying he wanted more time for review. One year later, more than 40,000 protesters showed up on February 17, 2013 to oppose the controversial Keystone XL pipeline in Washington D.C. It was the biggest climate protest in U.S history according to organizers of the rally. People from more than 30 states showed up to oppose many diverse climate control issues, Keystone XL as the main attraction.[8]

After climate scientist James Hansen declared that approval of the pipeline for tar sands production would be "game over" for the planet, the group organized hundreds of thousands of petitions and tens of thousands of protestors in August and November 2011 in front of the Capitol to protest authorization of the northern portion of the pipeline. Authorization was needed by the Obama Administration because the pipeline crossed international borders. Over 1250 people were arrested protesting in front of the White House. In response, the Obama Administration requested a 12-18 month review from the State Department for the Keystone XL pipeline, derailing the fast-tracking that pipeline proponents had been pushing for. The president explicitly noted climate change, along with the pipeline route, as one of the factors that a new review would need to assess.[9]

The U.S State Department released a draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) on the Keystone XL project that immediately received heavy criticism from climate scientists and environmental groups. By downplaying the climate impact, the U.S State Department SEIS draft has certain key shortcomings. It fails to consider a scenario in which rail and other transportation alternatives are insufficient to pick up the slack if Keystone XL pipeline is rejected. In fact, it is unrealistic to deem that rail infrastructure could transport 6 to 9 million barrels of tar sands oil daily. It treats up to 5.3 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions per year in 2030 – equivalent to adding 1 million cars to the road – as insignificant. And it does not consider the social costs of greenhouse gas emissions. Currently the SEIS is undergoing a 45-day public review period.[10] After the public review period closes, the U.S State Department will prepare the final environmental ruling and then begin the 90-day process of deciding whether the pipeline is in the national interest.

Northern Route Approval Act

Lawmakers have introduced the Northern Route Approval Act or NoRA, to push for Keystone XL. This legislation would eliminate a requirement that the pipeline receive a presidential permit. The president has said he will have made a decision by late summer or early fall 2013. Democratic Rep. John Dingell of Michigan cautioned against eliminating the requirement that the pipeline receives a presidential permit. "These unnecessary changes to hasten the process are counterproductive in the extreme, and I beg the committee not to engage in this silly act,” he said.[11] A House subcommittee of energy and power voted 17-9 on April 16, 2013 to approve the Northern Route Approval Act. The full Commerce Committee is likely to approve the bill, and Speaker of the House John Boehner, promised to move it to the full house quickly. The southern leg of the pipeline which doesn't cross international borders, therefore doesn't need a presidential permit is currently under construction.[12]


  1. O'Meara, Dina (2010-07-27). "U.S. delays decision on Keystone XL". Retrieved on 2010-07-27. 
  2. Jan Falstad, "Company plans major oil pipeline", May 9, 2008
  3. Brendan Fischer, "Four States Introduce Keystone XL Resolutions, Lifting Language from ALEC and TransCanada Itself", February 15, 2013.
  4. Nick Surgey, "Seven State Keystone XL Resolutions, Where are the Environmentalists?", April 8, 2013.
  5. Keystone XL Pipeline: Where it's at Now, Riley Pavelich, The Montana Kaimin, posted April 10, 2013.
  6. New Keystone XL Pipeline Application, U.S Department of State, accessed April 10, 2013.
  7. "Koch Brothers Positioned To Be Big Winners If Keystone XL Pipeline Is Approved" SolveClimate News, Feb. 10, 2011.
  8. [, Andrew Rafferty, Thousands rally in D.C. against Keystone Pipeline, published February 17, 2013.
  9. "Tar Sands Action," Tar Sands Action, accessed July 2012.
  10. Skeptical Science, State Department Downplays the Climate Impact of Keystone XL, posted March 13, 2013.
  11. Legislation offers new angle in battle over Keystone pipeline Malia Rulon Herman, Great Falls Tribune, posted April 11, 2013.
  12. House Tries Again To Force Keystone Pipeline Approval John H. Cushman Jr., Inside Climate News, posted April 17, 2013.

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