Judge blocks permit for oil pipeline
Advocates cheer ruling while Trump calls decision ‘a disgrace’
A federal judge has blocked a permit for construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada and ordered officials to conduct a new environmental review.
WASHINGTON — In a setback for the Trump administration, a federal judge has blocked a permit for construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada and ordered officials to conduct a new environmental review.
Environmentalists and tribal groups cheered the ruling by a district judge in Montana, while President Donald Trump called it “a political decision” and “a disgrace.”
The 1,184-mile pipeline would begin in Alberta and shuttle as much as 830,000 barrels of crude a day through a half dozen states to terminals on the Gulf Coast.
Trump has touted the $8 billion pipeline as part of his pledge to achieve North American “energy dominance” and has contrasted his administration’s quick approval of the project with years of delay under President Barack Obama.
The Trump administration didn’t immediately say whether it would appeal the new ruling. The State Department said it was reviewing the decision but wouldn’t comment further, citing continuing litigation.
The pipeline was first proposed by Calgary-based Transcanada in 2008. It has become the focal point of a decadelong dispute that pits Democrats, environmental groups and Native American tribes that warn of pollution and increased greenhouse gas emissions against business groups and Republicans touting the project’s jobs and potential energy production.
U.S. District Judge Brian Morris put a hold on the project late Thursday, ruling that the State Department had not fully considered potential oil spills and other impacts as required by federal law. He ordered the department to complete a new review addressing issues that have emerged since the last environmental review was completed in 2014.
New topics include the cumulative effects of climatechanging greenhouse gas emissions of Keystone XL and a related pipeline that brings oil from Canada, the effects of current oil prices on the pipeline’s viability, updated modeling of potential oil spills, and the project’s effect on cultural resources of native tribes and other groups along the pipeline’s route.
The review could take up to a year.
Environmentalists and Native American groups had sued to stop the project, citing property rights and possible spills.
Becky Mitchell, chairwoman of the Northern Plains Resource Council, a plaintiff in the case, said her organization was thrilled with the ruling.
“This decision sends Transcanada back to the drawing board,” Mitchell said, calling the ruling “the results of grassroots democracy in action, winning for water and people.”
Transcanada said in a statement that it was reviewing the judge’s 54-page decision. “We remain committed to building this important energy infrastructure project,” company spokesman Terry Cunha said.
Environmental groups declared victory and predicted the long-delayed project would never be built.
The court ruling “makes it clear once and for all that it’s time for Transcanada to give up on their Keystone XL pipe dream,” said Doug Hayes, a senior attorney with the Sierra Club, the nation’s largest environmental group.
Pipeline opponents disrupted business at a Chase bank branch in Seattle, protesting the company’s funding for tar sands development and projects like the Keystone XL pipeline. On Thursday, a federal judge blocked a permit for construction of the Keystone line.