State Department Will Approve Keystone XL Pipeline: Report

Department of State officials will recommend an approval for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline as early as Friday the Associated Press reports. 

Such a move would reverse a 2015 decision by former President Obama’s administration to block the project from transporting oil from Canada’s tar sands region across the Great Plains to Nebraska.

A recommendation to approve the 1,700-mile pipeline will come from Undersecretary of State Tom Shannon The Associated Press reported, adding President Donald Trump would then formally issue his approval. 

Environmentalists have argued the project, which is designed to carry 830,000 barrels of crude per day, would contribute to the release of excessive amounts of greenhouse gas. Republican supporters believe it would provide an economic boost with construction jobs and energy independence.

Trump’s approval, however, would not be enough for TransCanada, the pipeline builder, to complete the project. The Nebraska Public Service Commission must also sign off on construction in the state and their review is expected to stretch into the fall.

A spokesman for TransCanada was noncommittal when asked by The Huffington Post whether the company expected to be cleared for the next phase of construction 

“We do anticipate a decision by the State Department during the 60 days they have been given,” said Terry Cunha in an email. “At the moment, we continue to work with the Administration on our Presidential Permit application.”

The 60-day timeline for review mentioned by Cunha expires on Monday. 

President Donald Trump, in one of his earliest executive actions, had breathed new life and a fresh round of debate into the moribund project by inviting TransCanada to resubmit Keystone XL for review. 

White press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Thursday only that the Trump administration would have an update tomorrow about the project. 

”We have no announcements regarding the Keystone XL decision, including timing,” a State Department spokeswoman said in a statement to HuffPost.  The State Department has decision-making authority over the pipeline, because it cross the border with Canada. 

Politico reported that it had verified the State Department’s intent with two unnamed sources, adding that the approval could come by Monday.

Supporters and opponents of the project, however,  began issuing reactions to the anticipated approval

“The Keystone XL pipeline is not in our national interest,” said Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz (D), co-chair of the Senate Climate Action Task Force. “Encouraging the production of this oil, which includes Canadian tar sands – one of the dirtiest fuels in the world – is a huge step backward. Climate change is the challenge of our generation, and we need to be moving forward with policies to support clean energy.”

The League of Conservation Voters said that the decision was disappointing, but not a surprise because Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had for years worked for energy giant Exxon Mobil.

“Of course, it comes as no surprise that a State Department run by the former CEO of Exxon Mobil and an administration rife with climate deniers who have acted against public health, the environment and the clean energy economy at every turn would make such a misguided decision,” the group said. “This pipeline is all risk and no reward, and we will continue to fight it every step of the way.”

The Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign director Lena Moffitt predicted that there would be a reinvigorated opposition to the pipeline. Environmentalists demonstrated for years against the Keystone XL during the Obama administration and it has inspired movements seeking to thwart similar projects like the Dakota Access Pipeline. 

“There’s a new reality when it comes to pipelines,” Moffitt told HuffPost. “These massive fossil fuel infrastructure projects don’t make sense.” 

An energy expert for the conservative Heritage Foundation said the project is environmentally safe and will not contribute significantly to climate change. 

“We look forward to the State Department’s approval of Keystone XL which will reestablish some certainty and sanity to a permitting process that was hijacked by political pandering” Heritage Foundation energy expert Nick Loris wrote. “This is a shovel-ready infrastructure project that will create thousands of construction jobs and safely deliver more oil to American refineries, lowering prices at the pump for families. The phrase ‘better late than never’ certainly applies here.”

Trump had touted a supposed extra economic benefit to American workers by promising that the Keystone XL, as well as the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, would be constructed with American steel. But the Trump administration revealed earlier this month that the made-in-America requirement doesn’t apply to the Keystone XL developer any longer.

Only completely new pipelines must follow the rule.

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Why Canada Is Seeing A Surge Of Asylum Claims And Illegal Border Crossings From The U.S.

Global forced displacement has climbed to record levels, with a growing number of people from crisis-afflicted regions fleeing to countries like the U.S. to escape war and persecution. But for many who reach America, it is no longer a final destination.

In January and February alone, Canadian police caught more than 1,100 individuals illegally entering the country from the U.S. ― nearly half the number of people apprehended at the border in all of 2016. Some 5,500 people applied for asylum during the same two-month period.

Immigration officials released data this week illustrating the surge in unlawful crossings. They expect those crossings, as well as asylum claims, to climb even higher as the weather warms, putting Canada on track for its largest numbers in years.

A recent Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll reveals that nearly half of Canadians want asylum-seekers who cross the border illegally to be deported back the U.S., and disagree with the way Ottawa is handling the issue.

In Canada, asylum-seekers attempting to enter at a legal port or crossing will be turned back to the U.S. unless they meet specific criteria outlined in the 2002 Safe Third Country Agreement between the U.S. and Canada ― like being an unaccompanied minor. If they’re caught after entering the country illegally, however, they cannot be turned away ― instead, they are detained briefly, given shelter, then allowed to file an asylum claim from within Canada.

Hundreds of people, mainly from the Middle East and North Africa, have walked north across the U.S.-Canada border in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump’s election. Undeterred by severe weather conditions, some have suffered health issues and even lost fingers to frostbite as a result.

“The Trump policy, he was just deporting the guys over there. We didn’t see any future there, so that’s why we came over [to Canada],” a Pakistani refugee who spent a year living in New Jersey told NPR. “Canada is the best place. They give us the shelters. My lawyer, she’s being paid by the government.”

Trump took office after spending months on the campaign trail demonizing refugees and repeatedly vowing to “send them back.” He also pledged to construct a multi-billion dollar wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to curb illegal immigration.

Little more than a week after his inauguration, the president issued an outright ban on travel and immigration from several Muslim-majority countries, suspended U.S. refugee resettlement for several months and halted refugee admissions from war-torn Syria indefinitely. Federal judges intervened, so Trump’s administration revised and reissued the ban, which was again blocked in court.

As chaos unfolded in the aftermath of Trump’s ban, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent a clear message to refugees: “To those fleeing persecution, terror and war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith,” he said. “Diversity is our strength.” His government has accepted more than 40,000 Syrian refugees to date.

But the rising number of illegal crossings and asylum claimants has quickly become both a humanitarian issue and a source of political controversy. Canadian Conservative candidate Kellie Leitch is calling for an intensified immigrant screening process that she says will ensure that newcomers have “Canadian values,” including tolerance and generosity.

Leitch slammed the Liberals’ “wrongheaded policies” on immigration as “foolish and costly” in a recent post on Facebook. “It is not compassionate to allow people who don’t share our Canadian values to come here,” she wrote. “They will never integrate or accept our way of life, and the result will be constant conflict and heartache.” 

Her proposed policies echo Trump’s calls for “extreme vetting” of immigrants through ideological tests.

Yet while Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies may be “spooking some people” enough to cross illegally into Canada, they only account for part of the issue, Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, told The Huffington Post.

“Some people worry that they won’t be safe in the U.S., or will be separated from family members, or could face deportation, or will be treated unfairly ― but the numbers [of Canadian asylum claims] have been increasing since before Trump was elected,” she pointed out. “You also have to consider the global situation: There are now more refugees than at any time since World War II.”

Jesselyn covers world news for The Huffington Post. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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