Federal judge blocks Keystone Pipeline XL in major blow to Trump administration

Cristina Cross
November 9, 2018

A federal judge issued a major ruling Thursday halting construction of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline until the Trump administration carries out a valid updated environmental review of the project's impact.

Trump granted a permit for the US$8 billion (RM33.4 billion) conduit meant to stretch from Canada to Texas just days after taking office a year ago. However, in one of the first of many executive orders signed throughout his presidency, Donald Trump overturned the decision in 2017, arguing that construction would create thousands of jobs.

Morris also noted that in 2015, during the Obama administration, the State Department denied a permit to build the pipeline, citing environmental effects.

The analysis of a cross-border project like this is done by the State Department.

"The Department instead simply discarded prior factual findings related to climate change to support its course reversal", Morris wrote.

Morris said in his decision Thursday the government's analysis didn't fully study the cumulative effects of greenhouse gas emissions, the effects of current oil prices on the pipeline's viability or include updated modelling of potential oil spills.

Yesterday's ruling is temporary, and requires the government to do a more thorough review of how the project might affect the climate, cultural resources and wildlife. The Trump administration has regularly run afoul of the courts in its attempts to repeal environmental rules and approve fossil fuel projects.

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The US$8-billion project would help carry 830,000 barrels of crude a day from Hardisty, about 200 kilometres east of Red Deer, to Steele City, Neb., where it could then move on to refineries in the central USA and Gulf Coast. The pipeline would link up with an existing infrastructure in Nebraska, allowing 800,000 barrels of petroleum to flow to the Gulf refineries.

The proposed US portion of the pipeline would run about 875 miles through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. "TransCanada does not have an approved pipeline at this point".

In 2015, on the eve of the global climate talks in Paris, the Obama administration appeared to bring an end to the seven-year-long saga when it announced it was halting construction of the pipeline, arguing that approval would compromise the country's effort to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

A coalition of environmental and indigenous rights groups filed a lawsuit against the firm and the State Department in March to block Trump's permit, according to the Tribune.

One of the plaintiffs, the Sierra Club, welcomed the judge's decision.

"Rejecting the destructive Keystone XL pipeline is a victory for the grassroots activists who have worked against the Keystone XL pipeline for the past decade", Keever continued.

"The Trump administration tried to force this dirty pipeline project on the American people, but they can't ignore the threats it would pose to our clean water, our climate, and our communities", Mr Hayes added.

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