Another Keystone XL setback; environmental review ordered

Indigenous and climate protesters have long been opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline

Indigenous and climate protesters have long been opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline More

A federal judge yesterday halted construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, arguing that President Donald Trump's administration had failed to adequately explain why it had lifted a ban on the project.

The Great Falls Tribune reports U.S. District Judge Brian Morris' order on Thursday came as Calgary-based TransCanada was preparing to build the first stages of the oil pipeline in northern Montana.

The decision is a blow to Trump, who signed an executive order after just two days in the White House to grant a permit for the construction of Keystone XL and Dakota Access, another bitterly-opposed project that sparked fierce protests form native American groups.

In doing so the administration overturned a ruling by then president Barack Obama in 2015 that denied a permit for the pipeline, largely on environmental grounds, in particular the United States contribution to climate change.

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In Thursday's ruling, Morris ordered the government to issue a more thorough environmental analysis before the project can move forward.

What is the Keystone XL Pipeline? The Obama administration stalled the project, only for Trump to revive it. "TransCanada does not have an approved pipeline at this point". The Obama-appointed judge specifically called out State's disregarding the climate change arguments against the pipeline it had made under Mr. Obama.

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

In his ruling, the judge noted that the Department's analysis fell short of a "hard look" and requires a supplement to the 2014 supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) in order to comply with its obligations under National Environmental Policy Act.

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The ruling is a victory for environmentalists, tribal groups and ranchers who have spent more than a decade fighting against construction of the pipeline that will carry heavy crude to Steele City, Nebraska, from Canada's oilsands in Alberta. His decision was one of scores of court rebukes to the Trump administration for decisions on the environment, immigration and transgender service in the military, among other issues, made hastily and, in the opinions of dozens of judges, without the "reasoned consideration" required by various federal laws, particularly the Administrative Procedure Act.

Morris' ruling came as Canadian energy company TransCanada began delivering pipe to Montana in anticipation of construction in 2019.

"And frankly, approving this project would have undercut that global leadership", he said, adding that the "biggest risk" the US faced was "not acting".

Morris ruled the Trump administration "jumped the gun" by pushing forward with the pipeline despite concerns over damage to native American heritage and the resulting release of greenhouse gases.

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He added: "The department instead simply discarded prior factual findings related to climate change to support its course reversal". "That's why we keep winning in the court".

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