The monumental decision to walk away from the $8 billion project was confirmed Wednesday and came at a devastating cost to communities that pinned their hopes and investments on the success of the massive cross-border venture.
The decision to call it quits left people like Cox, who owns a two-story hotel that housed pipeline workers in Midland, South Dakota, feeling abandoned and angry.
"I am disappointed that TC Energy is giving up the fight," she told the Washington Examiner. "I know they and their subcontractors have lost a lot on this, but I feel like they have given up too soon."
If the plans had stayed in place, the Keystone XL would have connected two points of an existing pipeline, also called Keystone, that carries Canadian crude oil into the United States. Developers pitched the Keystone XL to towns along its route as a major investment opportunity and a chance at a better life. Places that lacked hospitals, good schools, or access to basic things like grocery stores were told their worries would be over soon.
"Their promises lead to our communities' investments," Cox said. "This leaves our communities holding a lot of debt."
She added, "[TC Energy's] billions lost to our millions or tens of thousands should be looked at as relative figures. Our total loss will be seen in months and years to come."
Gaylord Lincoln, a semi-retired mechanic who splits his time between South Dakota and Florida, said he's sick of "decent, hard-working people paying the price" for decisions made in Washington, D.C.
"Damn it," he said upon hearing the news. "There goes everything. There goes our shot at trying to build something good for our kids. There will be nothing left for us. Joe did this."
The fight over the pipeline dragged on for more than a decade, and its fate has flip-flopped from one administration to the next.
Last year, construction began after a $1.1 billion cash infusion by the government of Alberta jump-started the project. Less than 12 months later, the Keystone XL was once again stopped in its tracks when President Joe Biden effectively nailed the coffin shut on his first full day in office.
The decision to scrap the project marks a historic victory for environmentalists and Native Americans who have fiercely fought against it.
In its announcement Wednesday, TC Energy gave little explanation of the decision but said it had completed a comprehensive review of its options before making the final decision to scrap the Keystone XL altogether. The Canadian company said it would now focus on building its business in shipping and storing natural gas, liquid fuels, and power to meet the demand for cleaner fuels in North America.
"We value the strong relationships we've built through the development of this project and the experience we've gained," TC Energy Chief Executive Francois Poirier said.