A Canadian company said Monday it has started construction on the long-term Keystone XL oil sands pipeline across the U.S.-Canada border despite calls from tribal leaders and environmentalists to delay the $ 8 billion project. middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
A spokesperson for TC Energy said work began this weekend at the northern Montana border crossing, a remote area with sprawling cattle ranches and wheat fields. According to the company, around 100 workers are involved at first, but that number should increase to thousands in the coming months.
The 1,930 km pipeline was proposed in 2008 and would transport up to 830,000 barrels of crude per day for transfer to refineries and export terminals in the Gulf of Mexico.
He has been stuck in legal battles for years and several court challenges are still pending, including one to be presented to a judge next week.
Last week, TC Energy’s surprise announcement of its intention to start construction came after the Alberta provincial government invested $ 1.1 billion to restart construction. Montana’s environmental quality department on Friday issued the latest state permits the company needed, agency spokeswoman Rebecca Harbage said.
Native American tribal leaders and some residents of rural communities along the pipeline route fear that workers will spread the coronavirus. No fewer than 11 construction camps, some of which can accommodate up to 1,000 people, were originally planned for the project, although TC Energy says they are under investigation due to the virus.
TC Energy says it plans to check if everyone is entering the workplace for a fever and to make sure that workers practice social distance.
In January, opponents asked Morris to block all work while court challenges were underway. They said that clearing and cutting down trees along the route would destroy the habitat of birds and wildlife. Native American tribes along the pipeline route have declared that the pipeline could break and spill oil into waterways such as the Missouri River.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, which go away within two to three weeks. For some, especially the elderly and people with health problems, it can cause more serious illnesses, including pneumonia and death.
A work stoppage request hearing is scheduled for April 16 before US District Judge Brian Morris in Great Falls.
Keystone XL has been rejected twice by former US President Barack Obama due to fears of worsening climate change. President Donald Trump revived the project and then approved its approval after Morris ordered to block construction in 2018.
Morris in December rejected an initial request to block construction because TC Energy said at the time that no work was immediately scheduled.
Stephan Volker, a lawyer for environmental groups asking Morris to intervene again, said the company’s decision to “jump the gun” before next week’s hearing was an insult to the judge.
“We are confident that the court will not be bullied and will reverse President Trump’s second approval, just as he canceled President Trump’s first approval, as illegal,” said Volker.