But in late 2015, shortly before the global climate conference in Paris, Obama, citing national interests and the contribution the pipeline would make toward climate change, made the decision himself to reject Keystone XL.
True to his pledge, President Donald Trump gave final approval on Friday for TransCanada to build the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline, overriding environmental concerns in favor of boosting jobs and energy supply.
The pipeline is to run over the Ogallala aquifer, a huge underground reservoir in the Great Plains that provides water access to millions, including several Native American tribes. He added that he too was pleased with how promptly the Trump administration addressed the issue.
They pointed to the worst-case scenario calculated by US regulators, and argued that it's actually becoming reality - that if oil prices remain low, and no other pipelines get built, Alberta oilsands expansion would slow, and emissions would drop, without Keystone. "We strongly urge you to reject the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline as a project that will contribute to climate change at a time when we should be doing all we can to put clean energy alternatives in place", read the letter signed by experts from Harvard University, Stanford University, McGill University and other top institutes through the USA and Canada.
The pipeline would transport 800,000 barrels per day from Canada's oilsands production fields to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. In Nebraska, Jane Kleeb, head of the Nebraska Democratic Party, founded Bold Nebraska to push back against both the pipeline's environmental impact and its use of eminent domain.
Trump's support of the project comes after he signed an executive order just days after taking office to revive construction of the $8 billion pipeline. It's no coincidence that TransCanada dropped its NAFTA lawsuit less than an hour after the company received the permit to build.
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In a video on the company website, Girling said the pipeline is needed because North America needs oil so badly that it will continue to import crude "for years to come".
"I think they would have been happy to let Keystone die because of the U.S. and not have to pay the political costs for its approval".
The State Department, which had to weigh the national interests for the project, said Friday it formally signed off on the permit. A White House spokeswoman said this month that Trump's directive applied only to new pipelines, and since TransCanada had already stockpiled pipe, "the steel is already literally sitting there".
The move is part of a broader effort by President Trump to spend $1 trillion in infrastructure over 10 years.
"I think Trump's decision hurts the Trudeau government", Matthew Hoffmann, co-director of the Munk School's Environmental Governance Lab in Toronto told AFP. Fortunately, yet another Obama legacy item is being undone by Donald Trump, as the new president issued the requisite permit for the pipeline Friday morning. Ministers, including Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna, have been flying to Washington D.C.to meet with lawmakers about Canada's interests, including the environment and Keystone.
Environmental groups say the approval, like other ambitious executive actions made by the Trump administration early in its tenure, such as the ban on travel to US from several predominantly Muslim nations, is legally vulnerable.