Exclusive – Trump to approve Keystone XL at meeting with TransCanada CEO: official

A depot used to store pipes for Transcanada Corp's planned Keystone XL oil pipeline is seen in Gascoyne, North Dakota, January 25, 2017. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
By Luciana Lopez

U.S. President Donald Trump will announce the approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline at the White House on Friday, alongside the chief executive officer of builder TransCanada Corp (TRP.TO), according to a senior administration official.

The pipeline linking Canadian oil sands to U.S. refiners had been blocked by former President Barack Obama, who said the pipeline would do nothing to reduce fuel prices for U.S. motorists and would contribute emissions linked to global warming.

Trump signed an executive order to advance the project soon after taking office in January, saying it would create thousands of jobs.

The administration official said that among those scheduled to be at the White House for the 10:15 a.m. EDT announcement are TransCanada Chief Executive Russell Girling and Sean McGarvey, president of North America’s Building Trades Unions.

Expedited approval of projects is part of Trump’s approach for a 10-year, $1 trillion infrastructure package he promised on the campaign trail. The White House is looking for ways to speed up approvals and permits for infrastructure projects, which can sometimes take years to go through the maze of regulatory requirements.

“It does fit into the overall strategy the president has for infrastructure,” the official said.

The multibillion-dollar Keystone pipeline would bring more than 800,000 barrels per day of heavy crude from Canada’s oil sands in Alberta into Nebraska, linking to an existing pipeline network feeding U.S. refineries and ports along the Gulf of Mexico.

Approvals are still needed from state regulators, and the pipeline could face legal challenges.

Conservatives have said they support quick approval. Nick Loris, an energy and environment researcher at the Heritage Foundation, said on Thursday that approval would “re-establish some certainty and sanity to a permitting process that was hijacked by political pandering.”

Environmental groups that have opposed the pipeline have said they will continue the fight with petitions, political pressure and mass protests.

(Reporting by Luciana Lopez in New York; Additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici in Washington; Editing by Peter Cooney)