Court Rules Environmental Review of Keystone XL’s Nebraska Route Was Insufficient

The future of the much-maligned pipeline is now even more uncertain.

Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Environmental, landowner, and Tribal Nation plaintiffs scored a significant win in their case against TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline Wednesday after a federal court ruled that the U.S. Department of State had cut corners when approving the project’s Nebraska route.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for clean water, climate, and communities that would be threatened by the Keystone XL pipeline,” said Doug Hayes, a senior attorney with the Sierra Club, a plaintiff in the case.

U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris ruled that the fast-tracked environmental assessment of the pipeline’s alternative “Mainline Alternative Route” was not legally sufficient. The State Department must now conduct a more robust Environmental Impact Statement if it wishes to proceed. “This decision rejects the Trump administration’s shameful attempt to ram through Keystone XL without bothering to take a hard look at its effect on wildlife and the environment,” said Jared Margolis, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.

The case—brought in March 2017 by NRDC, Northern Plains Resource Council, Bold Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, and Sierra Club—was yet another roadblock for TransCanada in the decadelong fight against the pipeline. “We think it’s long past time for TransCanada to throw in the towel and scrap this boondoggle of a project,” said Mark Hefflinger, the communications director for Bold Alliance.

If built, Keystone XL would carry up to 35 million gallons a day of Canadian tar sands oil—one of the world’s dirtiest energy sources—across critical water sources and wildlife habitat to Gulf Coast refineries. Its hefty carbon footprint also represents a significant step backward from our clean energy goals.

TransCanada has not yet announced a final investment decision on whether to move forward and build Keystone XL should it receive all the necessary permits. But today’s court decision creates even more uncertainty for the project’s future, which investors are already questioning.

“This is a huge win for the landowners and Tribal Nation members whose water and environment would be forever threatened by this dangerous tar sands project,” said Jackie Prange, a senior attorney at NRDC. “And it’s a rejection of the Trump administration’s attempt to flout the law and force Keystone XL on the American people.”

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