United States court halts construction of Keystone XL oil pipeline

Ismael LynchNov 10, 2018

A federal judge issued a major ruling Thursday halting construction of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline until the Trump administration carries out a valid updated environmental review of the project's impact.

In its ruling Thursday, however, the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana found that in its reversal of the Obama-era decision, the Trump administration's U.S. Department of State had violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.

Environmentalists and tribal groups cheered the ruling by a US district judge in Montana, while President Donald Trump called it "a political decision" and "a disgrace".

Environmentalists and indigenous groups have argued the project would harm endangered species and result in air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and potential oil spills, including negative environmental impacts on tribal land.

The 1,897-kilometre pipeline would carry as much as 830,000 barrels of crude per day from Hardisty, Alta., to Steel City, Neb., and on through a half dozen states to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

Four days after Trump was sworn into office, he invited TransCanada to resubmit its permit application.

Morris particularly criticized the Trump administration for ignoring the recognized effects of the pipeline on climate change.

An appeal of the decision is highly likely, as the legal back-and-forth looks set to continue in the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Environmental groups who oppose the pipeline and filed the lawsuit say the ruling is a victory for advocates and a significant setback for the pipeline.

Judge Brian Morris cited a finding in a previous case that "an agency cannot simply disregard contrary or inconvenient factual determinations that it made in the past, anymore than it can ignore inconvenient facts when it writes on a blank slate".

In 2015, the Obama administration rejected construction of the pipeline, saying it would detract from America's global leadership on issues related to climate change.

On September 21, the State Department published an environmental assessment of a new proposed pipeline route through Nebraska, concluding that it does not threaten local waters or flora and fauna. "We remain committed to building this important energy infrastructure project". "I think it's a disgrace", Trump told reporters at the White House.

The US stretch of line that needs to be built would be 875 miles (1,450 km) long.

Other plaintiffs in the suit included The Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Bold Nebraska. He also accused the State Department of using "outdated information" about potential environmental impacts instead of "the best scientific and commercial data available".

"There is a clear economic need for the project and we wonder whether TransCanada will choose to pursue the project with a stronger backstop from shippers and/or various levels of government", Kwan said in a note.

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