USA judge blocks construction of Keystone XL pipeline

09 November, 2018, 13:56 | Author: Darnell Taylor
  • USA judge blocks construction of Keystone XL pipeline

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.

The ruling by Judge Brian Morris of the US District Court for the District of Montana dealt a stinging setback to Trump and the oil industry and served up a big win for conservationists and indigenous groups.

The order stems from a lawsuit filed by the Indigenous Environmental Network and North Coast Rivers Alliance, which alleges that the State Department and TransCanada violated National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, the environmental law described in the order as "the basic national charter for protection of the environment".

In March 2017, President Donald Trump's administration issued a permit approving construction of the pipeline, reversing the Obama administration's decision to block the controversial project.

The same environmental analysis that the department carried out before denying the permit in 2015 was ignored when the department turned around past year and approved it, the judge argued.

Shawnee Rae, age 8, among a group of Native American activists from the Sisseton-Wahpeton tribe protesting the Keystone XL Pipeline in Watertown, S.D.in 2015.

The analysis of a cross-border project like this is done by the State Department. The Obama-appointed judge specifically called out State's disregarding the climate change arguments against the pipeline it had made under Mr. Obama.

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The reversal required a "reasoned explanation" but instead the State Department discarded prior "factual findings", he said.

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.

Morris particularly criticized the Trump administration for ignoring the recognized effects of the pipeline on climate change. Construction of the U.S. leg had been scheduled to begin next year.

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

"An agency can not simply disregard contrary or inconvenient factual determinations that it made in the past", Judge Morris said in his ruling.

NPR reached out to TransCanada early Friday for comment on the ruling but did not hear back by the time of publishing.

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