Montana judge blocks contruction of Keystone XL pipeline

Andrew Cummings
November 9, 2018

A federal judge temporarily blocked construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, ruling late Thursday that the Trump administration had failed to justify its decision granting a permit for the 1,200-mile long project created to connect Canada's tar sands crude with refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast.

U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris' ruling late on Thursday came in a lawsuit that several environmental groups filed against the U.S. government in 2017, soon after President Donald Trump announced a presidential permit for the project.

Four days after Trump was sworn into office, he invited TransCanada to resubmit its permit application. After years of legal wrangling, Barack Obama rejected the permit in 2015.

The state department has now been ordered to do a more thorough review of the affect on issues like the climate.

One of the plaintiffs, the Sierra Club, welcomed the judge's decision.

Hayes told The Washington Post that the company had already been moving equipment into place and started pre-construction in Montana and South Dakota with the intent of beginning construction in early 2019.


Neither TransCanada nor the State Department could immediately be reached for comment on the ruling.

The administration can appeal against the decision.

The proposed US portion of the pipeline would run about 875 miles through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.

Environmental and indigenous groups sued TransCanada and the State Department in March to halt the project.

The US$8-billion project would help carry 830,000 barrels of crude a day from Hardisty, about 200 kilometres east of Red Deer, to Steele City, Neb., where it could then move on to refineries in the central USA and Gulf Coast.

Judge Brian Morris' 54-page order, issued late Thursday, overturns the Trump administrations's approval past year of the proposed 1,179-mile pipeline and at least temporarily prevents it from being built.


Environmentalists called the ruling a "major setback" for the pipeline project.

"An agency can not simply disregard contrary or inconvenient factual determinations that it made in the past", Morris wrote Thursday.

In his ruling, the judge noted that the Department's analysis fell short of a "hard look" and requires a supplement to the 2014 supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) in order to comply with its obligations under National Environmental Policy Act.

He also ruled the analysis failed to fully review the effects of the current oil price on the pipeline's viability and did not fully model potential oil spills and offer mitigations measures.

In 2015, on the eve of the worldwide climate talks in Paris, the Obama administration appeared to bring an end to the seven-year-long saga when it announced it was halting construction of the pipeline, arguing that approval would compromise the country's effort to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.


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