(Bloomberg) — Russ Girling, the man who spent a decade battling to build the controversial Keystone XL crude oil pipeline, is stepping down as TC Energy Corp.’s chief executive officer with the project still uncompleted.
Chief Operating Officer Francois Poirier will take the top job at TC Energy on Dec. 31, the Calgary-based company said Monday in a statement. Girling. 58, will stay on through Feb. 28 to assist with the transition before taking retirement.
Keystone XL became the central drama of Girling’s time at the helm of TC Energy, formerly known as TransCanada Corp. The proposed 830,000-barrel-a-day pipeline line connecting Alberta with Nebraska became symbolic of the battle between environmentalists concerned about climate change and the Canadian oil sands industry. The project was rejected by former U.S. President Barack Obama in 2015 and approved just over a year later by newly elected President Donald Trump, but since then it has been mired in court battles, even as construction started on the Canadian portion of the line.
The most recent setback for Keystone XL came in July when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to allow construction to begin in the U.S., leaving in place a federal court order that blocks use of a key federal permit. TC Energy said later that month it was looking for a way to gain permitting for the project.
The timing of Girling’s plan to retire may surprise the market, according to CIBC World Markets Inc. and Stifel Canada. CIBC analyst Robert Catellier said in a note he doesn’t see a material change in the company’s strategy. TC Energy’s shares dropped 2.4% to C$59.03 at 1:10 p.m. in Toronto amid a broad sell-off in commodities and stocks.
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