President Joe Biden on Monday ordered a new round of pipeline bids for the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, the first time a presidential administration has ever approved any of the $7.4 billion project.
The bids are for an 18-mile section of the Keystone XL pipeline that would carry oil from the oil sands of Alberta to refineries in Texas, where it would be refined and sold as natural gas.
Biden signed an executive order on Monday directing federal agencies to conduct public hearings on the project and conduct an environmental impact study on the proposed route.
It also directs the State Department to review and consider whether the route should be approved.
A final decision is expected within weeks, though the State and Homeland Security Departments are not expected to issue any final decisions before the end of the year.
Bid participants are required to disclose their financial interests and financial motivations for making bids.
The State Department has received bids from several pipeline companies, including Canadian Natural Resources and Kinder Morgan.
The final bidder will decide which route is built and whether the pipeline will cross the US.
The project would also run through a disputed land border with Mexico.
Brent Spence, a pipeline expert at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, told Recode he was concerned about the size of the proposed bids and the lack of transparency.
Spence said the process was “pretty straightforward, you get a bunch of people who have been around for a long time who know the rules and have a good sense of how pipelines are constructed, and then the government has to figure out who has the money and how to pay for it.”
Spence, who has been critical of the State Departments pipeline reviews, said the administration needs to do a better job in assessing and deciding on the merits of pipeline projects.
He said he expects a decision to be issued before the start of the new year.
“We’ve got to have the American people know exactly what is going on,” Spence said.
Bridging the US from Canada has long been a goal for President Donald Trump.
Last month, he signed an order instructing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to begin planning for a pipeline to the northern state of Montana, and it is expected to be approved in the coming weeks.
The pipeline would transport about 730,000 barrels of oil a day to a refineries on the Canadian side of the border, and some analysts have estimated it could generate up to $2.4 trillion in economic activity and $2 trillion in jobs.
The Keystone XL is expected be a controversial project that has drawn opposition from Native Americans, environmentalists, and the industry.