Why Is the Keystone XL Pipeline Still So Disputed?

Photo Courtesy: Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

The Keystone Pipeline system has been the subject of controversy for years as environmentalists and others have fought to prevent construction and expansion of this oil-delivery network. On January 20, 2021, President Joe Biden issued numerous executive orders, including one that aimed to protect public health and the environment by restoring science to tackle the climate crisis. One of this order’s tenants revoked the March 2019 permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline, noting that the pipeline "disserves" the United States, especially in terms of the country’s renewed efforts to combat climate change.

This executive order came in the wake of the United States Supreme Court’s 2020 ruling, which saw the justices siding with environmental groups and ruling that the Keystone XL Pipeline (KXL) — a rerouted addition to the existing system — would need to undergo a much lengthier and more detailed permitting process before the expansion could occur. At that time, the ruling represented a victory for those who opposed the project. Now, even with hopes of future construction completely dashed, the KXL remains a hotly debated issue. In fact, its current state is almost as fraught as its history.