VICTORY: You Helped Defeat Keystone XL 

After a decade of grassroots pressure along the proposed pipeline pathway, President Biden revoked a key permit for the Keystone XL pipeline on his first day in office, and construction of the pipeline was halted. Then in June 2021 TC Energy, the developer behind the project, announced it was abandoning the project.

This is an incredible win for the people and wildlife that would have borne the brunt of pollution from the pipeline and its inevitable spills, as well as for our climate. Thank you for lending your voice to this campaign.  

Keystone XL History 

In 2015 President Obama rejected the proposed KXL pipeline — but right after he left office, the Trump administration put it back on the table. Three years later, following a lawsuit by the Center and allies, a court ruled that the administration had violated bedrock environmental laws by approving a federal permit for the pipeline, including failing to adequately address the risks of oil spills on federally protected endangered species. The Trump administration undermined that victory by issuing a new permit, which allowed the project to proceed anyway. 

The Center and allies went back to court, arguing that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had illegally permitted the Keystone XL pipeline to be constructed through waterways using Nationwide Permit 12, a streamlined permit under the Clean Water Act allowing pipelines like Keystone XL (and many others) to cross rivers, streams and wetlands without a full analysis of the environmental impacts.  

We saw victory when, in April 2020, a Montana judge vacated Nationwide Permit 12 because the Corps had failed to do a programmatic analysis to ensure all the impacts of projects using that permit wouldn’t jeopardize imperiled species.  

The decision effectively blocked construction of Keystone XL through hundreds of water crossings along the pipeline route. The next month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit declared the ruling would stay in place while a full appeal of the decision moved forward, finding that the Corps and TC Energy had failed to show that they were likely to succeed on the merits of their appeal. After the Trump administration OK’d Keystone XL’s construction on federal lands, the Center and other conservation and landowner groups filed a new lawsuit challenging the approval. 

On his first day in office, President Biden signed an executive order revoking one of Keystone’s federal permits, halting construction of the pipeline. 

Keystone XL and the Climate Emergency 

New fossil fuel projects, including pipelines like Keystone, are incompatible with limiting global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius — the temperature cap scientists say is necessary to prevent climate chaos.  

The United States must rapidly phase out existing fossil fuel production and ensure a just transition to 100% clean, distributed and renewable energy.  

Together with over 500 partners backing the #ClimatePresident Action Plan, the Center for Biological Diversity is calling on the Biden administration to direct the federal government to reject all federal permits for pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure projects going forward.  

You can join us, along with Indigenous, community and national organizations, in calling on Biden to end the era of fossil fuels and “Build Back Fossil Free.” 

Keystone XL and Wildlife 

No matter how you look at it, Keystone XL would be bad for wildlife, especially endangered species. 
Many imperiled species live along the proposed pipeline’s path and in areas where tar-sands oil is produced. If the pipeline were built, it would decimate habitat these species rely on.  
The Center for Biological Diversity released a report called In Harm’s Way: How the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Have Ignored the Dangers of the Keystone XL Pipeline to Endangered Species

Our analysis found that at least 12 threatened and endangered species in four states would be put in harm’s way by the proposed pipeline, including critically endangered whooping cranes, interior least terns, American burying beetles, piping plovers, pallid sturgeons and black-footed ferrets. 
Threats from this project include habitat destruction from the massive ground disturbance this pipeline would have caused, bird deaths from power-line collisions, and the potentially catastrophic impacts of pipeline spills

Among the Wildlife Affected by Keystone XL: 

Whooping cranes: Toxic tailing ponds in Canada, power line collisions, oil spills
Interior least tern: Disturbance of breeding habitat, power line collisions, oil spills
Piping plover: Power line collisions, increased exposure to predators, oil spills
American burying beetle: Loss of vital grass habitat, smashing during construction, oil spills

Details on Impacts 

Pipeline Spills  

  • KXL would stretch across hundreds of miles and carry up to 35 million gallons of oil every day. Regulators have predicted that it could spill oil up to 100 times during its 50-year lifetime. Past tar-sands oil spills have devastated local wildlife. 
  • The toxic effects of tar-sands spills can reduce entire populations or biological communities of sensitive species. 

Power Lines  

  • KXL would require the construction of hundreds of miles of new power lines, creating significant collision threats for imperiled birds and bats. 
  • Only about 400 endangered whooping cranes remain in the wild. Nearly all of the pipeline’s route through Nebraska and South Dakota is within the central migratory corridor used by the last remaining wild population of whooping cranes, and cranes are particularly susceptible to collisions because they’re so lanky and because power lines are hard for them to see.  

Ground Disturbance 

  • Construction on just the northern U.S. segment of the proposed KXL pipeline would directly disturb about 15,500 acres and would require the construction of hundreds of new roads. 
  • Building KXL could result in the crushing of endangered northern swift foxes with young in dens. 

International Wildlife Impacts 

  • Construction on the northern U.S. segment of the proposed KXL pipeline alone would directly disturb about 15,500 acres and require the construction of hundreds of new roads. 
  • Building KXL could result in the crushing of endangered American burying beetles. 
  • The pipeline’s construction would also result in sediment impacts on many streams and rivers, including many that migratory birds (like whooping cranes, piping plovers and interior least terns) need during their long migrations.  

Whooping crane photo by Anthony Rue/Flickr