The Fight Goes On: Keystone XL Heads Back to Court

The Trump administration is determined to build this dirty tar sands oil pipeline. But we’re even more determined to stop it from ever happening.
Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Trump administration is determined to build this dirty tar sands oil pipeline. But we’re even more determined to stop it from ever happening.

Two and a half years since President Trump tried to revive the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline from the dead, it remains unbuilt and is about to face a new series of legal challenges. Today, environmental groups, including NRDC, filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of key permits that the pipeline needs before it can be built.

The lawsuit alleges that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to evaluate the project’s impacts to hundreds of rivers, streams, and wetlands before issuing permits, which it must do under the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Water Act.

In addition, the groups sent notices of our intent to sue President Donald Trump, the Army Corps, and the companies seeking to build Keystone XL and its power-line infrastructure because of the lethal threats to several endangered species—such as the pallid sturgeon, whooping crane, and American burying beetle—posed by the pipeline. This is yet another chapter to the decade-long saga of this unpopular, unnecessary, and unsafe project.

Today’s lawsuit—and the notices of intent to sue—is based largely on the simple fact that, in trying desperately to revive Keystone XL, President Trump and his administration have continually failed to meet their legal duty to evaluate the project’s potential environmental impacts. In the Keystone XL context, this is a big deal: It’s an 830,000-barrel-per-day project that would carry some of the nastiest crude oil on the planet across America’s breadbasket while detonating a carbon bomb in Alberta’s tar sands amid our growing climate crisis. Decisionmakers and the public should not and cannot sign off on a project like this without full knowledge of all the risks it carries.

The Keystone XL story has an endless number of twists and turns. The project, which was first proposed 11 years ago, has been rejected twice, then revived and justified with countless false statements and promises—all while facing insurmountable obstacles every step of the way. Indeed, NRDC and our allies recently won a preliminary order in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals halting construction in our case requesting the supplemental environmental review that’s still required for this pipeline. It was only the unprecedented intervention of the president himself that put an end to that lawsuit, effectively taking an important legal battle out of the hands of the courts, where it belonged. But the president doesn’t have the power to unilaterally get projects like Keystone XL built, so we’re headed back to court.

As the climate crisis has worsened, it is crystal clear that there is no place today or at any point in our future for a project like Keystone XL. Our vulnerable and increasingly strained natural resources cannot be put at risk for a tar sands oil disaster. And our shared climate cannot absorb the huge volumes of greenhouse gases this project would unleash from the industry growth it would enable in Northern Alberta.

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