Published: Sat, November 10, 2018
Research | By Wilma Wheeler

Federal judge blocks construction of Keystone XL pipeline

Federal judge blocks construction of Keystone XL pipeline

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 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.

According to Carmen, Trump's January 2017 executive order to expedite high priority energy and infrastructure projects, such as the Keystone XL pipeline, is in clear violation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the American Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples. "We remain committed to building this important energy infrastructure project".

Noting that former USA president Barack Obama had appointed Morris to the court, McConaghy said opponents of the pipeline had "shopped (the case) as best they could to find a pliant federal court judge who had some nexus to the project".

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

"An agency cannot simply disregard contrary or inconvenient factual determinations that it made in the past, any more than it can ignore inconvenient facts" in the present, Morris wrote, citing case law.

Morris particularly criticized the Trump administration for ignoring the recognized effects of the pipeline on climate change.

"An appeal of this order will likely go to the 9th Circuit [appellate court], which has not been favorable ground for the Trump administration", he said.

The court's ruling comes a little more than a month after TransCanada said that construction of the pipeline could begin as soon as next year.

But the Trump administration dismissed environmental objections as roadblocks and claimed that there were "numerous developments related to global action to address climate change" in the years since Obama-era rejection of the project.

The decade-long saga over the Keystone XL pipeline has had more detours than the project's almost 1,200-mile proposed path from Hardisty, Alberta, to Steele City, Nebraska.

From there it would flow to Oklahoma and on to the Texas Gulf coast.

It also used "outdated information" about the impact of potential oil spills on endangered species, he said, rather than the best available scientific and commercial data.

The pipeline construction sparked months of protests by Native Americans and activist groups, who say the project could pollute local water supplies.

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

The Trudeau government says it's disappointed that a USA judge has halted progress on building the $10-billion Keystone XL crude oil pipeline.

Other plaintiffs in the suit included The Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Bold Nebraska. "That's why we keep winning in the court".

The judge put the pipeline on hold until the State Department conducts another review of the possible environmental impact of the project.

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