While Some Celebrate this Important Step in Climate Preservation Efforts, Losses to the Canadian Economy are Undeniable.
Hannah Fleisch, Contributing Writer
With the end of Trump’s presidency and Biden’s swift executive order ending construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, a well-received decision by indigenous leaders and climate scientists – Trudeau has expressed his concern with the decision.
As one of 15 executive orders signed promptly after the inauguration on Wednesday,January 20th, President Biden has reversed Trump’s permission of the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Since the pipeline was a project that involved both the U.S. and Canada which Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau has supported, this decision has garnered some criticism from the Prime Minister and other groups involved.
The decision has come after years of protests and legal action from environmental activists, politicians, scientists and many activist members of Indigenous Communities.
The two leaders discussed the executive order in their first phone call since Biden’s inauguration, with Trudeau expressing his disapproval with Biden’s decision.
The federal and Alberta government are concerned with the immediate and long term economic losses resulting from lost construction jobs and corresponding service industries that typically relies on construction season for most of their revenue. Alongside a trend of lower Canadian oil prices in the last five years and limited access to capital markets to raise money for Alberta’s oil industry, this decision is expected to negatively impact Alberta’s oil production growth in the long term.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has been critical of Biden’s decision, calling for compensation for the economic losses from the project amounting to billions of dollars including a $4.2 billion dollar project loan. Alberta NDP opposition members have spoken out against Kenney, seeing this economic loss as a result of Kenney’s hostile diplomatic style and rushed decision making.
Alvin Francis, as Chief of the Nekaneet Cree First Nation in Saskatchewan and part shareholder of Keystone XL has expressed concern about the significant job losses for his community previously employed by the project to the BBC.
Activist Angeline Cheek from the Fort Peck Assiniboine Sioux Tribal Nation in Montana expressed reassurance with the decision, according to the BBC. She notes disagreement around the issue from people in her community but pursued the issue due to the environmental impact of the project. “If you take a look at these pipelines, they’re all going near the borders of the reservations,” says Angeline Cheek. “I see it as an act of genocide, another way to destroy our people, just like how the government tried to strip us of our culture and our ceremonies.”
Climate scientists are similarly enthused with Biden’s decision. Noting the deleterious impact of unconventional fossil fuels on the environment over time, NASA climate scientist Dr. James Hansen noted to the BBC that the decision to continue constructing the pipeline would have been a “game over for climate” by setting a precedent for more extensive extraction that would be difficult to reverse.
Some concerns expressed included that this action sets a precedent for power dynamics in U.S.-Canada relations going forward and a potential trend by the United States to oppose other pipelines.
Despite their disagreement, Prime Minister Trudeau has expressed that the incoming administration in the U.S. is more in line with Canada’s own values and goals, including combating climate change, and that Canada is looking forward to future good relations with the U.S. under President Biden’s new administration.