Published: Sat, November 10, 2018
Science | By Celia Watts

Keystone XL Pipeline: US judge orders halt on construction

Keystone XL Pipeline: US judge orders halt on construction

A federal judge in Montana halted construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline on Thursday on the grounds that the US government did not complete a full analysis of the environmental impact of the TransCanada project.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris in Great Falls agreed with the groups' argument that a 2014 environmental impact assessment fell short of the National Environmental Policy Act and other regulatory standards.

The decision is a blow to Trump, who signed an executive order after just two days in the White House to grant a permit for the construction of Keystone XL and Dakota Access, another bitterly-opposed project that sparked fierce protests form native American groups.

Trump, a Republican, said the project would lower consumer fuel prices, create jobs and reduce US dependence on foreign oil.

The judge in the state of Montana said the Trump administration had "discarded" facts when it approved the Keystone XL Pipeline in 2017.

"An appeal of this order will likely go to the 9th Circuit [appellate court], which has not been favorable ground for the Trump administration", he said.

Morris' ruling came as Canadian energy company TransCanada began delivering pipe to Montana in anticipation of construction in 2019.

From there it would flow to Oklahoma and on to 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.

A federal judge has blocked construction of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

Earlier: New Keystone XL pipeline route deemed safe for environment. It has become the focal point of a decade-long dispute that pits Democrats, environmental groups and Native American tribes who warn of pollution and increased greenhouse gas emissions against business groups and Republicans who cheer the project's jobs and potential energy production.

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.

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

Morris had ruled in August that the State Department had to reach a conclusion on the environmental impacts of the pipeline, but determined Thursday that the department's analysis had left out information he considered to be crucial.

The case is Indigenous Environmental Network v. U.S., 17-cv-00029, U.S. District Court, District of Montana (Great Falls).

The State Department could try to address the deficiencies the judge indicated in the ruling, appeal the decision to a higher court, or Congress could try to pass a law enabling the project's construction.

Though the court ruled the Trump administration did not violate the Endangered Species Act as the environmental and indigenous organizations behind the lawsuit had claimed, the court did call on the administration to update reports on potential impacts to endangered species in light of the updated information on oil spills and leaks.

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