Keystone XL Work Begins Near Border Despite Outbreak

Tribes, environmentalists wanted construction to wait till after the pandemic
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 6, 2020 7:10 PM CDT
Construction Starts Near Border on Keystone XL Pipeline
Opponents of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada demonstrate last October in Billings, Montana.   (AP Photo/Matthew Brown, File)

A Canadian company said Monday that it's started construction on the long-stalled Keystone XL oil sands pipeline across the US-Canada border, despite calls from tribal leaders and environmentalists to delay the $8 billion project during the coronavirus pandemic. TC Energy said work began over the weekend at the border crossing in northern Montana, a remote area with sprawling cattle ranches and wheat fields, the AP reports. About 100 workers will be involved in the pipeline's early stages, but that number will swell into the thousands in coming months, according to the company. The 1,200-mile pipeline, proposed in 2008, would carry up to 830,000 barrels of crude daily for transfer to refineries and export terminals on the Gulf of Mexico. It's been tied up for years in legal battles, and several court challenges are still pending.

TC Energy's surprise March 31 announcement that it was starting construction came after the Alberta government invested $1.1 billion to jump-start work. Montana's Department of Environmental Quality on Friday issued the final state permits needed, an agency spokeswoman said. Leaders of American Indian tribes and some residents of rural communities along the pipeline route worry that workers could spread the coronavirus. As many as 11 construction camps, some housing up to 1,000 people, were initially planned for the project, though TC Energy says those are under review because of the outbreak. Work on the pipeline is allowed under an exemption to Gov. Steve Bullock's March 26 stay-at-home directive, officials said, though it did not address worker camps.

(Read more TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline stories.)

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