Keystone XL Gets a Win—But the Fight Goes On

On June 6, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed our case challenging the environmental review for the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline as moot, vacating the District Court’s ruling and lifting the permanent injunction on construction that was in place since November 2018. This latest twist in the Keystone XL saga came after President Trump took the unprecedented step of revoking the previous State Department cross-border permit and issuing a permit under his sole authority as President. Despite this dramatic development, TC Energy—better known as TransCanada—has already reconfirmed that it cannot begin construction of Keystone XL in 2019.

The decision is unfortunate, because it gives further legitimacy to President Trump’s abuse of the U.S. legal system and our constitutional system of checks and balances. Keystone XL will continue to face intense public resistance, and its environmental threats will continue to be analyzed—if not by the State Department, then by the Bureau of Land Management and the Army Corps of Engineers. Nonetheless, President Trump’s move plucked the issue out of the courts’ hands for now, essentially nullifying a judicial review process that had been underway for over two years.

The reality is that this unnecessary abuse of power by the President won’t get Keystone XL built any faster. Courts in Nebraska have yet to rule on the validity of key permits issued in that state, and several key federal permits have yet to be issued. Even state level permits that TransCanada needs to continue pre-construction activities like building worker camps have not been granted. And, as the company well knows, it will face stiff opposition at every future juncture in its quest to build this unnecessary, risky tar sands pipeline.

The case against Keystone XL and all new major fossil fuel infrastructure gets stronger by the day. Atmospheric greenhouse gas levels are continuing to rise, global average temperatures continue to hit records, and evidence of the unfolding climate crisis presents itself on a daily basis. Locking in 50 more years of expanded tar sands production—the exact purpose of projects like Keystone XL—has no place in a world where the worst effects of a changing climate are avoided.

About the Authors

Josh Axelrod

Manager of fossil fuels and climate policy, Canada Project, International Program

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