The Trump administration has given a federal permit to the Keystone XL pipeline project after former President Barack Obama rejected it just two years ago.
On Friday morning, the U.S. State Department announced the issuance of the permit to TransCanada to build the pipeline, saying that it would “serve the national interest” to do so.
The decision marks an about-face from the Obama administration, which came to the opposite conclusion.
President Donald Trump, during a press briefing Friday, said the pipeline is safer than other methods used to transport oil, and he called its completion "long overdue."
“It’s going to be an incredible pipeline," Trump said. "The greatest technology known to man — or woman.”
He praised himself and said other presidents wouldn't have signed the permit.
"Today we begin to make things right and do things right," he said.
Russ Girling, president of TransCanada, called the permit a “significant milestone” in the years-long project.
“We greatly appreciate President Trump's Administration for reviewing and approving this important initiative and we look forward to working with them as we continue to invest in and strengthen North America's energy infrastructure,” said Girling.
The pipeline will carry Canadian tar sand oil to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Michael Brune, leader of the Sierra Club environmental activist group, said the pipeline still has a lot of hurdles to pass before construction can begin, including a state-level approval in Nebraska, and approvals required by other federal agencies like the Army Corps of Engineers.
“This project has already been defeated, and it will be once again,” Brune said in a statement. “The project faces a long fight ahead in the states, but the fact remains that the American people do not want more fossil fuels, we do not want our private and public lands destroyed by a pipeline carrying the dirtiest fuel around, and we do not want our future and our children’s future to continue be threatened by climate change.”
In 2015, the Obama administration rejected construction of the pipeline, saying it would detract from America's global leadership on issues related to climate change.
The 1,700-mile-long pipeline is designed to transport up to 830,000 barrels per day of tar sand oil from Alberta, Canada, to Nebraska, where it would then enter existing pipelines to the Gulf Coast refineries.
The pipeline construction has created controversy among Native Americans and activist groups, who spent months protesting the project out of fears it will pollute local water supplies.