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Six questions about the rejection of the Keystone pipeline

WASHINGTON – After years of delay, debate and cross-border finger pointing, the Keystone XL pipeline was rejected Friday by U.S. President Barack Obama.

Here are some questions about the controversial project.

What was Keystone all about?

The pipeline would have carried almost one-quarter of Canada’s oil exports, linking Alberta oilsands bitumen to an already completed line in the southern U.S. connected to Texas refineries. It needed a presidential permit to cross the border. Opposition began in Nebraska with farmers concerned about the line crossing their land. It swelled into a movement that pulled in celebrities and Nobel Prize winners and most of the Democratic party.

What just happened?

President Obama concluded the project wasn’t actually a very big deal as he rejected it. His administration’s view is that it doesn’t mean much for jobs, greenhouse-gas emissions, oil prices, or even production in the Canadian oilsands. But it was a strong political symbol in the struggle over climate change, especially with a major world summit on the issue scheduled for December in Paris.

What’s the Canadian reaction?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s disappointed, but won’t let the issue poison Canada-U.S. relations. His predecessor Stephen Harper cancelled a summit with Obama over the issue. Trudeau won’t. The U.S. State Department concluded that relations between the two countries will remain strong.

Will a new president approve it?

All the Democratic presidential candidates have opposed the project, while the Republicans support it. It could become a presidential campaign issue, which would call for careful Canadian diplomacy to avoid being seen as interfering in a U.S. election.

Will the company fight back?

TransCanada Corp., has sunk billions into this project. It has said publicly it’s considering reapplying under a future president. Sources say it’s also been weighing a NAFTA lawsuit — although such suits rarely succeed and in fact have never succeeded against the United States government.

What happens if there’s no pipeline?

For now, not much. It will mean more oil moving on trains — which pollute more and are arguably more dangerous. It will also mean the loss of huge royalty revenues for U.S. counties along the route and a few thousand fewer temporary construction jobs. In the long run, some suggest the rejection might slow the growth of Alberta’s oilsands. The State Department, however, says the oilsands will keep expanding, unless oil prices stay low and all pipeline projects get stalled.