The Trump administration issued a permit March 24 for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from Canada to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast once complete.

The decision caps a years-long debate among stakeholders over the $8 billion pipeline’s fate. It marks one of the biggest steps taken to date by the Trump administration.

“It’s going to be an incredible pipeline,” President Trump said, using the “greatest technology known to man or woman.  And frankly, we’re very proud of it.” Trump said the pipeline will create thousands of U.S. jobs.

The State Department, responsible for reviewing the project because it crosses an international border, determined that building the pipeline serves U.S. national interests. That conclusion followed a review of environmental, economic and diplomatic factors, the department said.

TransCanada, the Calgary-based company that first applied for a presidential permit in 2008, called the decision a “significant milestone.”

TransCanada CEO Russ Girling called the pipeline “the safest and most reliable way to move our products to market.”

The 2,735-kilometer pipeline, as envisioned, would carry oil from tar sands in Alberta, Canada, to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast, passing through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma.

Portions of Keystone have already been built.

More permits needed

Yet even with a presidential permit, the pipeline still faces obstacles — most notably the route, which is being litigated in the states. Native American tribes and landowners have joined environmental groups in opposing the pipeline.

TransCanada said it would continue engaging with “neighbors throughout Nebraska, Montana and South Dakota to obtain the necessary permits and approvals to advance this project to construction.”

The presidential permit was signed by Thomas Shannon, a career diplomat serving in a senior State Department role, rather than by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Because the secretary is also the former chief executive of oil company Exxon Mobil, he recused himself.

Canadian Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr said the Canadian government is pleased with the decision. Ninety-seven percent of Canada’s oil exports go to the U.S.

“Nothing is more essential to the American economy than access to a secure and reliable source of energy. Canada is that source,” Carr said.