Published: Sat, November 10, 2018
Research | By Sheri Schwartz

United States judge halts construction of Keystone XL pipeline

United States judge halts construction of Keystone XL pipeline

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.

Trump has touted the $8 billion pipeline as part of his pledge to achieve North American "energy dominance" and has contrasted his administration's quick approval of the project with years of delay under President Barack Obama. That court previously has dealt his administration setbacks in its efforts to deport young immigrants brought illegally to the country as children, as well as its attempt to dismiss a lawsuit brought by 21 young people who argue the government must do more to combat climate change.

The major oil pipeline proposed by Calgary-based TransCanada Corp. would link Alberta's oilsands to refineries and overseas markets on the Texas Gulf Coast.

The pipeline, which would run 1,200 miles from Canada to Nebraska and carry over 800,000 barrels of oil per day, has drawn controversy since it was first proposed in 2008.

Morris' court order said the administration's use of a 2014 environmental review to justify a presidential permit for construction violated three federal laws - the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.

According to a report in The Hill, Judge Morris said the State Department didn't properly take into account the effects of global warming, the risk of oil spills and worldwide oil prices.

"Today's ruling makes it clear once and for all that it's time for TransCanada to give up on their Keystone XL pipe dream", Sierra Club senior attorney Doug Hayes said.

Energy producers in the northern nation already are struggling with a shortage of pipeline space that has hammered prices for their crude, sending its discount to USA benchmarks to the widest on record in recent weeks. Native American groups in Montana and elsewhere fought the Keystone project as well, saying its route failed to adhere to historical treaty boundaries and would impinge on their water systems and sacred lands.

The same environmental analysis that the department carried out before denying the permit in 2015 was ignored when the department turned around previous year and approved it, the judge argued. The Trump administration claimed, with no supporting information, that those impacts "would prove inconsequential", Morris wrote.

TransCanada did not indicate how it would proceed on Friday but the ruling is a blow to the company's plans to begin construction early next year.

Becky Mitchell, chairwoman of the Northern Plains Resource Council, a plaintiff in the case, said her organization is thrilled with the ruling.

Tom Goldtooth, executive director for the Indigenous Environmental Network said the ruling was a win for tribes, water "and for the sacredness of Mother Earth".

"It's emblematic of what we're seeing with the Trump administration, which is a very fast and sloppy reversal of prior a way that doesn't adhere to the rule of law", Prange said. "That's why we keep winning in the court".

That environmental impact review was ordered by the same Montana judge, Brian Morris, who now ruled for another review, suspending all work on the project. "Oil companies wanted to get it built before lack of pipeline capacity was restricting production. The only question is, how much longer is it until it is no longer needed?"

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