Calgary

TransCanada preps to clear trees, shrubs for Keystone XL Alberta portion

Calgary-based company TransCanada says it'll start clearing trees and foilage next week for the northern route of its planned Keystone XL pipeline.

National Energy Board approves pre-construction pipeline work starting at the end of January

On Monday, the National Energy Board approved the request for some winter clearing work. (Alex Panetta/Canadian Press)

Calgary-based TransCanada says it'll start clearing trees and foliage next week for the northern route of its planned Keystone XL pipeline.

On Monday, the National Energy Board announced it had approved the pipeline company's request to do some winter clearing work. The regulator said the company had satisfied requirements to remove trees and shrubs around Hardisty, Alta., and further south in a block known as Keystone's north spread.

Hardistry is about 210 kilometres northeast of Red Deer.

The pipeline, expected to cost $8-billion, would carry 830,000 barrels of crude a day from Hardisty to Nebraska. The pipeline would then connect with the original Keystone that runs to refineries in Texas.

The future of the controversial pipeline remains uncertain, however. The company faces legal challenges around how the pipeline was approved.

In December, a Montana Federal Court judge gave the company permission to continue some pre-construction work such as engineering, awarding contracts and taking meetings. An injuction had halted all work after a judge determined previous environmental assessments were insufficient.

The pre-construction work is essential, the company has said, to be ready for the 2019 spring construction season and meeting its targeted 2021 completion date. TransCanada is still waiting for approval to continue field work in the United States.

The yellow box around Hardisty, Alta., is the so-called north spread for the pipeline project. (National Energy Board)

TransCanada faces strong opposition in the U.S., as well, from environmentalists and land owners.

In Canada, construction crews will be allowed to start vegetation clearing on Jan  28. Workers won't be permitted to work during restricted activity periods to protect migratory birds.

People living near that north spread may see "some small crews" with clearing machinery and trucks working in the area until early March, a spokesperson for TransCanada said in an email.

The company did not respond to a request for an interview about its U.S. plans.

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