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Keystone Pipeline To Begin Construction Despite Coronavirus Concerns

A map of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline route through northeastern Montana.
U.S. Bureau of Land Management
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U.S. Bureau of Land Management
A map of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline route through northeastern Montana.

Editor's Note April 02, 2020: TC Energy spokesperson Sara Rabern is referring to workers being American when she says they are "local."

A Canadian company says it plans to start construction of the disputed Keystone XL oil pipeline running from Canada through the U.S. in April after lining up customers and funding.

TC Energy says it’ll kick off construction on the oil pipeline in Phillips County, Montana while also enforcing social distancing and screening to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

TC Energy spokesperson Sara Rabern says there could be up to 100 workers on site during peak times, although usually fewer.

“Some of the measures that are in place right now, working primarily with local workers. Basically, a lot of orientation on COVID expectations, awareness and prevention and using health and safety personnel to kinda monitor all those guidelines that are in place at that site,” Rabern says.

Bozeman based Barnard Construction Company is the primary contractor. Barnard Construction Company’s COVID-19 preparation plan includes COVID-19 training for workers, self-reporting of symptoms and maintenance of a daily log at all locations to account for personnel comings and goings.

The U.S. and Canada border is closed to non-essential travel. TC Energy says no equipment or people are crossing that border.

Energy production and construction are considered exempt from Governor Steve Bullock’s stay at home directive.

Environmentalists and some American Indian tribes bitterly oppose the pipeline’s construction. Calgary-based TC Energy says the provincial Alberta government will invest $1.1 billion to cover construction costs through 2020.