On his very first day in office back in January, President Joe Biden issued an executive order annulling the construction permit for the 1,210-mile oil pipeline extension stretching from Alberta to the Kansas-Nebraska border.
It would have provided a more direct route for Alberta’s tar sands to refineries in Port Arthur, Texas, and could transport an estimated 830,000 barrels of oil per day. The project was set to create 13,200 temporary jobs for its construction and hundreds of permanent jobs for its upkeep.
Wednesday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced the filing of a formal complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas and was joined by 18 other states including the four through which the extension would run.
“[President Biden’s] decision to revoke the pipeline permit is not only unlawful but will also devastate the livelihoods of thousands of workers, their families, and their communities,” said Paxton in a statement to the press.
“The power to regulate foreign and interstate commerce belongs to Congress — not the President. This is another example of Joe Biden overstepping his constitutional role to the detriment of Montanans,” he added.
TC Energy, the company behind the pipeline’s construction, has been trying to obtain federal approval since the Obama administration. Former President Obama declined the approval, but former President Donald Trump directed the Department of State to expedite TC Energy’s refiled application immediately upon taking office in 2017. And after two years of obstruction, he again issued a similar order in 2019.
By the end of 2020, construction of the 1.2-mile stretch crossing the U.S.-Canada border was “substantially completed.”
The pipeline was opposed by a number of environmental groups on environmental hazard grounds. Some argue that the oil from the Alberta tar sands is overtly acidic compared with something like West Texas crude, and thus poses a greater environmental risk. There were also numerous disputes concerning tribal lands and the pipeline’s traversing through them.
Biden cited the pipeline’s antagonism to his broader environmental agenda.
Advocates of the pipeline, however, contend that the pipeline is the safest mode of transportation for the oil that will find be transported one way or the other. The pipeline’s alternative is mobile transportation such as by truck, train, or ship which pose not only higher costs of transport, but a higher risk of calamity during shipping.
The complaint cites a few lines of argument against Biden’s executive action. The first is that regulating interstate and international commerce is an authority vested in Congress, not the executive. This, according to the suit, qualifies as a violation of the separation of powers.
It also points to a 2011 act of congress that “directed the President to grant the Keystone XL cross-border permit or explain within 60 days” why it shouldn’t be awarded.
The second argument is that environmental impacts cited by Biden and the pipeline’s opponents are negligible, as analyzed by U.S. government studies.
The third is the lost economic impact that will accompany the project’s demise. TC Energy estimated an $8 billion economic impact, both directly and indirectly, to the states through which the pipeline would run and those who further stand to benefit from its operation, such as Texas.
Paxton and company. request that the court declares Biden’s action as lacking in legal authority and effect and enjoining the defendants from further obstructing the pipeline’s construction.
Texas’ attorney general has maintained consistent and staunch opposition to President Biden’s administration, having sued the executive on numerous grounds since Inauguration Day.
Just before Biden took office, TC Energy committed to making the Keystone XL pipeline fully powered by renewable energy — a transparent attempt to stave off the incoming permit revocation.
Immediately after Biden’s action, TC Energy announced the suspension of the XL pipeline.
Read the full complaint filed below.