Two senior officials within the Trump administration said the State Department will recommend approval of TransCanada Corp.'s controversial Keystone XL (KXL) crude oil pipeline, removing one of the remaining barriers to the project's completion, according to reports.
According to separate reports Thursday by the Associated Press and Politico, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Tom Shannon is poised to sign a presidential permit for the project -- with the former reporting the approval will occur on Friday, and the latter reporting it will happen by Monday, the deadline of a 60-day review period by the administration.
State Department approval is required because the pipeline will cross the U.S.-Canada border.
During a meeting with reporters on Thursday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said "we've got coming up...a deadline related to the Keystone pipeline. We'll have an update on that for you tomorrow."
Shortly after taking office, President Trump issued a presidential memorandum to advance construction of KXL and another controversial project, the Dakota Access oil pipeline. Both had been thwarted or delayed by the Obama administration.
KXL -- a 1,700-mile pipeline starting in Alberta that would transport 830,000 b/d, including 100,000 b/d from the Bakken, to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast --was blocked by the State Department in November 2015after it determined that the $8 billion project was not in the nation's interest.
Trump's memorandum on KXL invited TransCanada to resubmit its application to the State Department for the presidential permit. Thesouthern portion of the pipe, from Cushing, OK,to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico has been completed and is in service.
In January 2016, TransCanadasaid it intended to file a claim under the North American Free Trade Agreement over the Obama administration's rejection of the pipeline. The Calgary-based company said it would seek $15 billion in damages. It also filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Houston over the rejection.
In a statement Thursday, Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica said the group will continue to fight the pipeline.
"Trump's decision will galvanize Americans, and further stiffen resistance to Trump's campaign to sacrifice our planet for Big Oil profits," Pica said. "The fight over KXL is not over. [We] will go to the states and the courts to ensure that KXL never becomes a reality."