Judge halts con­struc­tion of Key­stone pipe­line

Trump calls de­ci­sion ‘a dis­grace’ as rul­ing viewed as a set­back

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND NATION & WORLD - By Fred Bar­bash and Allyson Chiu

WASH­ING­TON — A fed­eral judge tem­po­rar­ily blocked con­struc­tion of the con­tro­ver­sial Key­stone XL pipe­line, rul­ing late Thurs­day that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion had failed to jus­tify its de­ci­sion grant­ing a per­mit for the 1,200-mile-long project de­signed to con­nect Canada’s tar sands crude with re­finer­ies on the Texas Gulf Coast.

It was a ma­jor de­feat for Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, who at­tacked the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion for fail­ing to move ahead in the face of protests based largely on en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns. Trump signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der two days into his pres­i­dency set­ting in mo­tion a course re­ver­sal on the Key­stone XL pipe­line and the Dakota Ac­cess pipe­line.

The de­ci­sion, is­sued by Judge Brian Mor­ris of the U.S. Dis­trict Court for the Dis­trict of Mon­tana, does not per­ma­nently block a per­mit but re­quires the ad­min­is­tra­tion to con­duct a more com­plete re­view of po­ten­tial ad­verse im­pacts re­lated to cli­mate change, cul­tural re­sources and en- The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion did not in­di­cate whether it would ap­peal Thurs­day’s rul­ing on the pipe­line project. dan­gered species.

Mor­ris hit the ad­min­is­tra­tion with a fa­mil­iar charge, that it dis­re­garded facts es­tab­lished by ex­perts dur­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion about “cli­mate-re­lated im­pacts” from Key­stone XL. The ad­min­is­tra­tion claimed, with no sup­port­ing in­for­ma­tion, that those im­pacts “would prove in­con­se­quen­tial.” The State Depart­ment “sim­ply dis­carded prior fac­tual find­ings re­lated to cli­mate change to sup­port its course re­ver­sal.”

It also used “out­dated in­for­ma­tion” about the im­pact of po­ten­tial oil spills on en­dan­gered species, he said.

On the South Lawn of the White House on Fri­day and be­fore de­part­ing for Paris, Trump de­nounced the de­ci­sion, say­ing, “It was a po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion made by a judge. I think it’s a dis­grace.”

“To­day’s rul­ing makes it clear once and for all that it’s time for Tran­sCanada to give up on their Key­stone XL pipe dream,” said Sierra Club Se­nior At­tor­ney Doug Hayes in a state­ment. The law­suit prompt­ing Thurs­day’s or­der was brought by a col­lec­tion of op­po­nents, in­clud­ing the indige­nous En­vi­ron­men­tal Net­work and the North­ern Plains Re­source Coun­cil, a con­ser­va­tion coali­tion based in Mon­tana.

“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,” Hayes said.

Hayes told The Wash­ing­ton Post that the com­pany had al­ready been mov­ing equip­ment into place with the in­tent of be­gin­ning con­struc­tion in early 2019.

“It’s clear that this de­ci­sion tonight will de­lay the pipe­line sig­nif­i­cantly,” said Hayes, who noted that a proper en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact state­ment of this scope usu­ally takes about a year to com­plete. “Tran­sCanada does not have an ap­proved pipe­line at this point.”

Mor­ris, a for­mer clerk to the late Chief Jus­tice Wil­liam Rehn­quist, was ap­pointed to the bench by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

No im­me­di­ate com­ment came from the ad­mi­nis- tra­tion af­ter the pipe­line or­der on whether it would ap­peal Thurs­day’s rul­ing. Tran­sCanada, the Cal­gar­y­based group be­hind the project, did not re­spond to re­quest for com­ment Fri­day.

The pipe­line is in­tended to be an ex­ten­sion of Tran­sCanada’s ex­ist­ing Key­stone Pipe­line, which was com­pleted in 2013. Key­stone XL would trans­port up to 830,000 bar­rels of crude oil per day from Al­berta, Canada, and Mon­tana to Ok­la­homa and the Gulf Coast. In the U.S., the pipe­line would stretch 875 miles through Mon­tana, South Dakota and Ne­braska, with the rest con­tin­u­ing into Canada.

It met sus­tained op­po­si­tion from en­vi­ron­men­tal ad­vo­cacy groups, as well as skep­ti­cism from Obama, who wor­ried about the con­tri­bu­tion it would make to­ward cli­mate change.

In 2015, on the eve of the in­ter­na­tional cli­mate talks in Paris, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion ap­peared to bring an end to the seven-year­long 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. The U.S., Obama said, was now a “global leader when it comes to tak­ing se­ri­ous ac­tion to fight cli­mate change.”


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