Court Finds Trump Administration’s Permits for Keystone XL Invalid

TransCanada must now halt all construction on the dirty tar sands pipeline.

Nati Harnik/Associated Press

A federal judge dealt a significant blow to Keystone XL yesterday by ordering a stop to all construction on TransCanada’s pipeline. The ruling stated that the Trump administration violated bedrock environmental laws when approving the project. “Keystone XL would be a disaster for the climate and for the people and wildlife of this country,” says Jackie Prange, a senior attorney at NRDC. “As the court has made clear yet again, the Trump administration’s flawed and dangerous proposal should be shelved forever.”

The U.S. District Court found that the Trump administration relied on an outdated environmental review from 2014—which violates the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act. Before TransCanada can resume construction, the U.S. Department of State will have to revise its environmental review. Jared Margolis, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, called the decision “a complete repudiation of the administration’s attempts to evade environmental laws and prioritize oil company profits over clean water and wildlife.”

The ruling follows the court’s previous decision in August to require additional analysis of the pipeline’s new route through Nebraska. The plaintiffs—which include NRDC, the Northern Plains Resource Council, Bold Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, and Sierra Club—filed the lawsuit in March 2017 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana. This latest news calls into further question whether investors will want to risk continuing to financially back the project. TransCanada has not yet announced a final investment decision as to whether it will move forward and build the pipeline, even if it receives all the necessary permits. “Today's ruling makes it clear once and for all that it's time for TransCanada to give up on their Keystone XL pipe dream," says Sierra Club’s senior attorney Doug Hayes.

The fight against the controversial Keystone XL pipeline is now more than a decade old. As proposed, the pipeline would carry up to 35 million gallons a day of Canadian tar sands—one of the world’s dirtiest energy sources—across Nebraska, South Dakota, and Montana and through critical wildlife sources and wildlife habitat to Gulf Coast refineries. It would also threaten landmarks and natural resources sacred to indigenous communities.

The Obama administration denied Keystone XL’s permits three years ago, citing climate impacts, significant changes in oil markets, cultural resources along the pipeline’s route, and the threat of spills to water and wildlife. In order to reverse course and approve the project, the State Department will now have to provide a reasoned explanation as to how those facts have changed.

“This now-10-year battle is still far from over,” says Mark Hefflinger, communications director for Bold Alliance. “We’ll continue to stand together against this tar sands export pipeline that threatens property rights, water, and climate at every opportunity, at every public hearing.”

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