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USA judge blocks construction of Keystone XL pipeline

09 November 2018

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris said the Trump administration's projections for the pipeline's contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, potential for oil spills and impact on the local Native American community fell short, the Montana-based Great Falls Tribune reports.

The judge barred both TransCanada and the U.S. from "from engaging in any activity in furtherance of the construction or operation of Keystone and associated facilities" until the U.S. State Department completes a supplemental review. The State Department initially denied the pipeline a permit in 2015, under the Obama administration.

The ruling deals a major setback for TransCanada and could possibly delay the construction of the $8 billion, 1,180 mile pipeline.

In August, Judge Morris ruled that the State Department must supplement a more thorough study of potential environmental effects of the pipeline. The Trump administration claimed, with no supporting information, that those impacts "would prove inconsequential".

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

Doug Hayes, a lawyer for the Sierra Club environmental group, said the ruling made clear it was it was time to give up on the "Keystone XL pipe dream".

The reversal required a "reasoned explanation" but instead the State Department discarded prior "factual findings", he said.

Since its conception, the pipeline has sparked a backlash from environmentalists and indigenous peoples who say it violates historical treaty boundaries and would bring environmental problems.

Morris, a former clerk to the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, was appointed to the bench by President Barack Obama.

The ruling is a victory for environmentalists, tribal groups and ranchers who have spent more than a decade fighting against construction of the pipeline that will carry heavy crude to Steele City, Nebraska, from Canada's oilsands in Alberta. "Today, the courts showed the Trump administration and their corporate polluter friends that they can not bully rural landowners, farmers, environmentalists and Native communities".

The pipeline is created to run from tar sand oil fields in Canada's Albert province, through Montana, South Dakota and part of Nebraska, to existing facilities in that last state.

TransCanada, which is pushing the project, did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Friday.

Stephan Volker, an attorney for the complainants', called Morris' ruling "a landmark".

USA judge blocks construction of Keystone XL pipeline