Resistance That Won’t Quit: A Timeline of the Keystone XL Pipeline

Despite a Trump executive order undoing nearly nine years of defiance, the story of the-pipeline-that-won’t-die isn’t over.
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The State Department estimated Keystone XL alone could add up to 27 million tons of CO2 to the atmosphere per year.

YES! Illustration by Jennifer Luxton

Illustrations by Jennifer Luxton.

In July 2008, TransCanada Corporation announced plans for what would be known as Keystone XL, a 2,030-mile-long oil pipeline from Alberta to U.S. refineries on the Gulf Coast.

The pipeline would transport 830,000 barrels of tar sands oil a day. The State Department estimated Keystone XL alone could add up to 27 million tons of CO2 to the atmosphere per year. More recent studies place the potential at 100 million tons.

Opposition began with Indigenous activists who were joined by the environmental movement. The resistance grew bigger, bolder, and more united in the process.

Because the 1,700-mile northern section of the pipeline—Keystone XL proper—enters the U.S. over the international border with Canada, it required approval by the U.S. State Department. In Nebraska, farmers and ranchers challenged TransCanada’s eminent domain in court, and kept the pipeline at bay for seven years.

“It was the landowners who opposed granting easements who made it possible for Obama to veto Keystone XL,” rancher and organizer Ben Gotschall said.

That hard-won veto was undone by executive order during President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office. But the story of Keystone XL isn’t over. Resistance-that-won’t-quit has been holding back the-pipeline-that-won’t-die for nearly nine years. This is how we got here: