Joe Biden Faces Justin Trudeau Clash over Keystone XL Pipeline

President-elect Joe Biden has vowed to revitalize America's traditional alliances after he takes up residence in the White House this week, repairing the damage he says President Donald Trump has done to the U.S.-led international system that has dominated international affairs since the Second World War.

But Biden appears to be on course for an early head-to-head with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over the $9 billion Keystone XL project, a controversial Canada-U.S. oil pipeline that has been opposed by progressives, environmentalists and indigenous groups.

Trudeau has long supported the project despite the protests, arguing it will help reduce reliance on foreign oil imports and create new jobs.

Reuters reported Monday that Biden is set to rescind the pipeline permit as soon as he takes office, perhaps on his first day in the White House, as he seeks to restore American leadership on climate change action. CBC later confirmed the rumors citing its own anonymous sources.

Biden appears a more natural partner for Trudeau than Trump, with whom the prime minister has clashed repeatedly over the past four years. But cross border ties may have to overcome an early chill if the new president does indeed stop the Keystone XL project like President Barack Obama did in 2015, citing his administration's commitment to fighting climate change.

Reuters reported on Monday—citing an unnamed source familiar with Biden's thinking—that the new president may rescind the Keystone XL permit immediately. This follows an earlier report by CBC that the words "Rescind Keystone XL pipeline permit" appear on a list of executive actions likely scheduled for Biden's first day in office.

Biden has long planned to stop the Keystone XL project, which will carry oil from the Canadian province of Alberta to Nebraska. In May, Biden policy director Stef Feldman told Politico that the former vice president supported Obama's decision to delay the project in 2015 and will "proudly stand in the Roosevelt Room again as president and stop it for good by rescinding the Keystone XL pipeline permit."

Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. Kirsten Hillman said in a statement to Reuters that Trudeau's government believes Keystone XL is compatible with both countries' climate action goals. "There is no better partner for the U.S. on climate action than Canada as we work together for green transition," Hillman said.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, meanwhile, said on Twitter he is "deeply concerned by reports that the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden may repeal the Presidential permit for the Keystone XL border crossing next week."

"Doing so would kill jobs on both sides of the border, weaken the critically important Canada-US relationship, and undermine US national security by making the United States more dependent on OPEC oil imports in the future," Kenney said.

Pro-oil and right-wing lawmakers in the U.S. will be among those critical of the president if he does rescind the Keystone XL license. Ohio Rep. Christina Hagan described the reported decision as "job killing," adding: "If only Biden & Co cared about American independence and American exceptionalism we wouldn't have to watch this great work be unraveled."

Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw, an oil industry ally who has mocked and dismissed renewable energy proposals, claimed Biden "plans to kill jobs and raise your energy prices, and for what? Not the environment. Canceling this pipeline does nothing for the environment." He added: "It is for his radical base. He's appeasing them on day one."

Trump vehemently supported the project and vowed to finish construction if he won a second term. In his first week in office in 2017, Trump took action to revive work on the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines and lift Obama's 2015 order to halt activity.

Keystone XL oil pipeline protesters Washington DC
Opponents of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines hold a rally as they protest President Donald Trump's executive orders advancing their construction, at Lafayette Park next to the White House in Washington, D.C., on January 24, 2017. Biden will reportedly rescind the permit for the controversial pipeline on his first day in office. SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images/Getty