Northern Plains Resource Council et al. v. Shannon et al.

Together with the Northern Plains Resource Council, Bold Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, and Sierra Club, NRDC challenged the U.S. State Department’s March 2017 decision to issue a U.S.–Canada cross-border permit for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline without doing a complete, current review of the pipeline’s threats to climate, endangered species, and water supplies for communities along the route. With this issuance and without any reasoned explanation, the State Department reversed its 2015 decision to deny the KXL cross-border permit because the project’s climate impacts and threats to human health and the environment were contrary to the national interest.

NRDC snagged our first victory on November 22, 2017, when the court denied the federal government’s and TransCanada’s motions to dismiss the case, soundly rejecting their argument that presidential authority barred judicial review of its decision to approve the pipeline.

On May 24, 2018, NRDC and our co-plaintiffs appeared before the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana to argue that the Trump administration’s rubber-stamp approval of the cross-border permit violated several federal laws: The National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, and Administrative Procedure Act. The day’s hearing addressed our summary judgment briefs filed earlier this spring—which contend that the federal government violated these laws by reviewing the project before knowing the pipeline’s final route through Nebraska; failing to prepare an adequate Environmental Impact Statement or supplement that statement when significant new information came to light; arbitrarily reversing its prior decision to deny the permit for Keystone XL and disregarding previously relied-upon facts in the process; and erroneously concluding that the pipeline is not likely to adversely affect the critically endangered whooping crane, the threatened piping plover, and the endangered interior least tern.

The Keystone XL pipeline continues to be tied up in both federal and Nebraska courts. On November 15, 2018, U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris found that the Trump administration’s reliance on a stale environmental review from 2014 violated bedrock environmental laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act. This ruling followed the court’s partial decision on August 15, which confirmed that the State Department’s Environmental Impact Statement was flawed. In September, the State Department again attempted to clear the way for construction and released a draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.

The court’s November decision means that TransCanada must cease all construction until the State Department has revised its environmental review. 

NRDC and our allies are confident in our remaining arguments that the approval of the dangerous and dirty tar sands pipeline was illegal and that the cross-border permit should be vacated. The ongoing series of legal, economic, and political hurdles is already throwing the project’s future into question.

Last Updated

September 27, 2018



Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline

The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would send a flood of toxic tar sands oil—one of the dirtiest fuels in the world—through America’s heartland.

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