Alberta Crisis in Alberta News

Indigenous leaders say Keystone cancellation a worrying sign for oilsands

Bill Loutitt, CEO of McMurray Metis, at the groundbreaking ceremony for the McMurray Metis Cultural Centre at MacDonald Island Park on Wednesday, Septener 2, 2020. (Sarah Williscraft/Fort McMurray Today)

By Sarah Williscraft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/Fort McMurray Today

FORT MCMURRAY – Indigenous leaders in the Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo area say the recent cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline is a worrying sign for the oilsands and could hurt Indigenous investments.

The cross-border pipeline expansion was cancelled hours after Joe Biden was sworn in as president. Biden had spent months on the campaign trail promising to cancel Keystone XL on his first day in office.

This was the second time the project has been cancelled. Then-president Barack Obama rejected a permit application for Keystone XL in 2015. His successor, Donald Trump, reversed that decision in 2017.

Much of the pipeline has already been built and already crosses the U.S. border. Last March, Premier Jason Kenney agreed to fund the first year of construction with a $1.5 billion investment and $6 billion in loan guarantees.

“It almost appears this project was cursed,” said Ron Quintal, president of the Fort McKay Métis Nation. “It’s absolutely frustrating.”

This was the second time the project has been cancelled. Then-president Barack Obama rejected a permit application for Keystone XL in 2015. His successor, Donald Trump, reversed that decision in 2017.

Much of the pipeline has already been built and already crosses the U.S. border. Last March, Premier Jason Kenney agreed to fund the first year of construction with a $1.5 billion investment and $6 billion in loan guarantees.

“It almost appears this project was cursed,” said Ron Quintal, president of the Fort McKay Métis Nation. “It’s absolutely frustrating.”

“If we were able to refine the bitumen here in Canada, we’d be in a better place to use it here and export it ethically.”

ACFN blasts Alberta’s recent Keystone investments

Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) said the cancellation puts an emphasis on other projects moving oil to markets.

“It’s going to be a struggle but it’s better to struggle first and get everything right,” he said.

He also criticized the Alberta government’s financial investments in the project, calling it a bet that Trump would be re-elected.

“The investment went south and it’s never going to come back north,” he said.

Dale Swampy, president of the National Coalition of Chiefs, said the decision implies long-term unemployment for those working in exploring and developing conventional and oilsands projects in Western Canada.

“It’s quite a blow to the First Nations that are involved right now in working with TC Energy to access employment training and contracting opportunities,” said Swampy, who is a member of the Samson Cree First Nation.

Keystone XL, which is owned by Calgary-based TC Energy, was first proposed in 2008 when the company was known as TransCanada.

Had it been built, a 1,897-kilometre pipeline would have carried 830,000 barrels of crude oil a day from storage facilities in Hardisty, Alta., to Nebraska.

The expansion would connect to the original Keystone pipeline, which runs to Gulf Coast refineries in Texas.

-with files from Canadian Press