Federal judge halts Keystone XL pipeline construction

Christopher Davidson
November 9, 2018

A federal judge blocked the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline Thursday, ruling that the Trump administration hadn't justified changing President Obama's earlier rulings.

The Great Falls Tribune reports U.S. District Judge Brian Morris' order on Thursday came as the Calgary-based energy giant was preparing to build the first stages of the oil pipeline in northern Montana.

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

The permit approval followed years of intense debate over the pipeline amid steadfast opposition from environmental groups.

The ruling is temporary and requires the government to do a more thorough review of how the project might affect the climate, cultural resources and wildlife.

Environmentalists called the ruling a "major setback" for the pipeline project. "Despite the best efforts of wealthy, multinational corporations and the powerful politicians who cynically do their bidding, we see that everyday people can still band together and successfully defend their rights".

In doing so the administration overturned a ruling by then president Barack Obama in 2015 that denied a permit for the pipeline, largely on environmental grounds, in particular the United States contribution to climate change.

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Judge Morris is the latest jurist to block Mr. Trump's initiatives under administrative-law rule, claiming that his officials have cut corners in administrative processes to make political decisions.

He added: "The department instead simply discarded prior factual findings related to climate change to support its course reversal".

The US$8-billion project would help carry 830,000 barrels of crude a day from Hardisty, about 200 kilometres east of Red Deer, to Steele City, Neb., where it could then move on to refineries in the central USA and Gulf Coast.

About 250 miles of pipeline would be buried across six counties in Montana.

Environmental and indigenous groups sued TransCanada and the State Department in March to halt the project.

One of those litigants in this case, the Sierra Club, cheered the decision on substantive grounds.

Neither TransCanada nor the State Department could immediately be reached for comment on the ruling.

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