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 based on a stale and incomplete environmental review. The Indigenous Environmental Network and North Coast Rivers Alliance have brought a separate lawsuit against Keystone XL in the same court.

Our coalition snagged its first victory on November 22, 2017, when the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana denied the federal government’s and TransCanada’s motions to dismiss the case, soundly rejecting their argument that presidential authority barred judicial review of the State Department’s decision to approve the pipeline.

On May 24, 2018, NRDC and our co-plaintiffs appeared before the district court to argue that the Trump administration’s rubber-stamp approval of the cross-border permit violated several federal laws: The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Endangered Species Act (ESA), and Administrative Procedure Act (APA). We asserted 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 (EIS) 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.

We’ve since notched several wins before both the district court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals:

  • August 15, 2018: U.S. District Court’s partial decision confirms that the State Department’s Environmental Impact Statement is flawed. 
  • November 8, 2018: U.S. District Court finds that the Trump administration’s reliance on a stale environmental review from 2014 violated NEPA, the ESA, and the APA. TransCanada must cease all construction until the State Department has revised its environmental review
  • December 7, 2018 and February 15, 2019: U.S. District Court allows TransCanada to undertake limited preconstruction activities but reaffirms that TransCanada cannot begin construction on the pipeline until the federal government revises its environmental review.
  • March 15, 2019: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denies TransCanada’s motion to begin construction on Keystone XL, leaving in place the U.S. District Court’s December and February decisions while the Ninth Circuit considers the merits of the appeal.

Keystone XL also continues to be tied up in Nebraska state court. Meanwhile, tar sands production is faltering, and recent scientific reports confirm that our fight to reduce carbon emissions is more urgent than ever. Together, these legal, economic, and political hurdles make clear that the project should be shelved forever

Last Updated

March 15, 2019



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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