Federal Court Rules State Dept. Must Conduct Full Environmental Review of Keystone XL in Nebraska
GREAT FALLS, Mont.– A federal judge today sided with environmental, landowner and Tribal plaintiffs in their challenge to the Trump administration’s approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
The State Department had attempted to fast-track its environmental review of the pipeline’s new route in Nebraska, and today U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris ruled that this sham review process was not legally sufficient.
Today’s ruling mandates that the State Department go back and conduct a more robust supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the “Mainline Alternative” route, which was approved by the Nebraska Public Service Commission in November 2017.
If built, Keystone XL would carry up to 35 million gallons a day of Canadian tar sands—one of the world’s dirtiest energy sources—across critical water sources and wildlife habitat to Gulf Coast refineries.
The decision clouds the future for a pipeline that investors are already seriously questioning the need for. 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.
Plaintiffs Northern Plains Resource Council, Bold Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club filed the lawsuit in March 2017 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana.
Judge Morris indicated that he would issue an order addressing the plaintiffs’ remaining claims that the administration violated the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act when it approved the pipeline in the near future.
“We think it’s long past time for TransCanada to throw in the towel and scrap this boondoggle of a project,” said Mark Hefflinger, communications director for Bold Alliance. "The court saw through the sham fast-track environmental review that TransCanada and the State Department were trying to shove past Nebraska landowners and Tribal Nations, and ordered them to go back and conduct a thorough and legal review. We’ll continue to stand together against this tar sands export pipeline that threatens our land, water and climate at every opportunity, and at every public hearing during the new court-ordered review of Nebraska.”
"Today's ruling is a victory for clean water, climate, and communities that would be threatened by the Keystone XL pipeline," said Sierra Club Senior Attorney Doug Hayes. "This proposed project has been stalled for nearly a decade because it would be all risk and no reward, and despite the Trump administration's efforts, they cannot force this dirty tar sands pipeline on the American people. It's time for TransCanada to give up on their Keystone XL pipe dream."
“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, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s always been painfully obvious what a disaster this pipeline will be—not just for our climate and local communities but for endangered species like the whooping crane. There’s just no excuse for approving this terrible project.”
“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, senior attorney at Natural Resources Defense Council. “And it’s a rejection of the Trump administration’s attempt to flout the law and force Keystone XL on the American people.”
“Today’s ruling is an important moment in our fight against the corporate polluters who have rushed to destroy our planet," said Marcie Keever, legal director at Friends of the Earth. “Finding that the State Department failed to adequately analyze the project is a victory for the grassroots activists who have worked against the Keystone XL pipeline for the past decade. Environmental laws exist to protect people and our lands and waters. Today, the courts showed Trump and his corporate polluter friends that they cannot avoid the harm that Keystone XL would cause to rural landowners, farmers, ecosystems and Native communities.”
# # #
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.