Federal judge halts Keystone XL pipeline construction
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Federal judge halts Keystone XL pipeline construction

A federal judge in Montana on Thursday granted a temporary injunction bringing an immediate halt to the construction of the $8 billion Keystone XL pipeline project.

Judge Brian Morris ruled in August that the US State Department must conduct a more thorough environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline project, which was continued in Thursday’s ruling.

Then-president Barack Obama rejected the pipeline in 2015 on climate change grounds, but President Donald Trump gave the project a green light shortly after his inauguration in 2017 via a Presidential Permit. Morris held Thursday that the Trump administration violated the Administrative Procedure Act and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it restarted the Pipeline construction without producing an updated and thorough environmental impact report.

The court said that the State Department’s analysis of the several environmental issues fell short of the “hard look” the NEPA required. Morris ordered the Department to supplement its 2014 environmental impact report in order to comply with its obligations under NEPA, including publishing:

  • The effects of current oil prices on the viability of Keystone;
  • The cumulative effects of greenhouse gas emissions from the Alberta Clipper expansion and Keystone;
  • A survey of potential cultural resources contained in the 1,038 acres not addressed in the 2014 Report; and
  • An updated modeling of potential oil spills and recommended mitigation measures.

The court held that the State Department did not violate the Endangered Species Act when it neglected a number of measures and effects, but it did order the Department to consider potential adverse impacts to endangered species from oil spills associated with Keystone in light of the updated data on oil spills and leaks.

Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director for one plaintiff, the Indigenous Environmental Network, said in a press release, “This is a win for Lakota, the Oceti Sakowin and other Tribal Nations, for the water, and for the sacredness of Mother Earth. This decision vindicates what we have been saying all along: Trump’s approval of this pipeline was illegal, violated environmental laws and was based upon fake facts.”