Published: Fri, November 09, 2018
Science | By Dan Gutierrez

Federal judge issues setback to Trump administration plans on Keystone XL pipeline

Federal judge issues setback to Trump administration plans on Keystone XL pipeline

In a setback for the Trump administration, a federal judge has blocked a permit for construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada and ordered officials to complete an environmental review.

The US state department "simply discarded" its previous analysis of the pipeline's climate change impact by approving it shortly after Donald Trump's presidency began, wrote Brian Morris, US district court judge in Montana.

"The Court enjoins Federal Defendants and TransCanada from engaging in any activity in furtherance of the construction or operation of Keystone and associated facilities", the court document reads, "until the Department has completed a supplement to the 2014 SEIS (Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement) that complies with the requirements of NEPA and the APA".

Morris found that the United States government's use of a 2014 environmental review to justify issuing a presidential permit for construction of the cross-border pipeline violated the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.

The lawsuit prompting Thursday's order was brought by a collection of opponents, including the indigenous Environmental Network and the Northern Plains Resource Council, a conservation coalition based in Montana.

Trump claimed there would be "great construction jobs" stemming from Keystone XL, which involves the building of a 1,200 mile pipeline across six U.S. states in order to bring crude oil from Alberta in Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast. 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.

After years of legal wrangling, Obama rejected a permit for the pipeline in 2015.

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Energy producers in Canada 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. "Today, the courts showed the Trump administration and their corporate polluter friends that they can not bully rural landowners, farmers, environmentalists and Native communities".

An AP map shows the proposed Keystone XL pipeline extension route.

While noting that Thursday's ruling does not completely terminate the Keystone project and that the "now ten-year battle is still far from over", Mark Hefflinger of Bold Alliance declared, "Farmers and our Tribal Nation allies in Nebraska, South Dakota, and Montana celebrate today's victory foiling the Trump administration's scheme to rubber-stamp the approval of Keystone XL". "If we are serious about halving emissions from fossil fuels in the next 10 years and avoiding climate catastrophe, we must drop any new tar sands pipelines, full stop".

USA benchmark WTI little changed after the decision, trading down 0.1 percent.

The analysis of a cross-border project like this is done by the State Department.

"An agency cannot simply disregard contrary or inconvenient factual determinations that it made in the past, any more than it can ignore inconvenient facts when it writes on a blank slate". "It's not over for us, we're just going to keep on going ahead".

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