• The pipeline has been delayed for years amid opposition from Native American and environmental groups
  • Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said he's hoping enough construction is completed to make it extremely difficult for a change in U.S. administration to cancel the project
  • Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has expressed opposition to the project

Construction on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline began Friday in the small Canadian town of Oyen, kicking off the more than 1,200-mile project that will deliver production from Canadian oil sands to Steele City, Nebraska. Three U.S. states began work on the project earlier despite opposition from Native American and environmental groups.

“We are here at long last, kicking off construction of the Alberta spread of the Keystone XL project,” said Jason Kenney, premier of Alberta province. “We're finally getting it done.”

TC Energy hopes the pipeline will be operational by 2023. The Keystone XL is to pass through Alberta and Saskatchewan in Canada en route to Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska where it will join up with TC Energy’s existing facilities, eventually delivering Canadian oil to Gulf Coast refineries.

The Obama administration opposed the pipeline but President Trump reversed that stance, opening the way for construction. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has said he would rescind construction permits if he’s elected.

Alberta has invested $1.5 billion in the project and provided $6 billion in loan guarantees because private investors turned skittish amid the opposition.

Kenney said he is determined to get the pipeline built, saying he planned to reach out to U.S. Democrats to try to keep the project alive. He said he’s hoping if enough construction is completed, it will be extremely difficult for a new administration to stop it.

The Trump administration last month asked the U.S. Supreme Court to lift a court order blocking construction in Montana. A federal judge had ruled permits were granted improperly by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, violating clean water and endangered species laws. The decision was upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Separately, the Supreme Court of Canada on Wednesday dismissed an appeal aimed at blocking the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion that would triple the flow of oil from Alberta to the Pacific coast. The appeal was filed by British Columbia First Nations. The court gave no reasoning behind its decision.