Federal judge orders environmental review before Keystone XL can continue
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Federal judge orders environmental review before Keystone XL can continue

A US District Judge in Montana ruled [order, PDF] Wednesday that the US State Department must conduct a more thorough environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline project, ordering the $8 billion project’s construction to come to an immediate halt.

An environmental review was initially published for the pipeline’s original plans, which stretched from Canada through Nebraska. However, the Nebraska portion of the line’s path has since been revised. Nebraska regulators voted [JURIST report] in November to approve the new route.

US District Judge Brian Morris said in a partial order that TransCanada, the company constructing the pipeline, and the State Department “have yet to analyze the Mainline Alternative route” despite “possess[ing] the obligation to analyze new information relevant to the environmental impacts of its decision.”

“Federal Defendants cannot escape their responsibility [under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)] to evaluate the Mainline Alternative route,” Morris said.

Former president Barack Obama rejected the pipeline in 2015 on climate change grounds, but President Donald Trump gave [JURIST reports] the project a green light shortly after his inauguration in 2017 via a Presidential Permit. On Wednesday Morris declined to vacate this 2017 presidential permit completely.

Morris has not decided whether the project violates the National Environmental Policy Act or the Endangered Species Act and is set to release an opinion on that matter soon.