Federal judge halts Keystone XL pipeline construction

  • Federal judge halts Keystone XL pipeline construction

Federal judge halts Keystone XL pipeline construction

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

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 endangered species.

Indigenous and environmental groups had sued TransCanada and the U.S. Department of State after Nebraska authorities approved an alternative route to the one TransCanada had proposed through the state.

He noted that the State Department denied the permit in 2015, relying on climate change information under the Obama administration, which the Trump administration simply dismissed.

Native American groups argued the pipeline would cut across their sovereign lands.

Work can not proceed until the State Department completes a supplement to the environmental impact statement that complies with the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedure Act, Morris ruled.

The privately financed pipeline is projected to stretch 1,179-miles (1,897km) from the oil sands of Canada's Alberta province, through Montana and South Dakota, to rejoin an existing pipeline to Texas.

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

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

The proposed USA portion of the pipeline would run about 875 miles through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.

No immediate impact in oil markets is seen, as the pipeline isn't scheduled to come online for years regardless of the ruling.

NPR reached out to TransCanada early Friday for comment on the ruling but did not hear back by the time of publishing. "Today, the courts showed the Trump administration and their corporate polluter friends that they can not bully rural landowners, farmers, environmentalists and Native communities".