Federal judge halts construction on Keystone XL pipeline citing environmental impact

In a major setback to U.S. energy policy, but a win for environmental advocates, a federal judge in Montana ruled Thursday against President Trump’s permit to allow completion of the final 1,180 mile prong of the Keystone XL pipeline.

In a 54-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Brian Morris determined the Trump administration failed to consider the pipe’s impact on climate change.

“The [State] Department instead simply discarded prior factual findings related to climate change to support its course reversal,” Morris wrote in his decision.

Similarly in his ruling, Judge Morris also cited the Trump administration’s failure to weigh oil prices, the environmental impact on cultural resources in the pipeline’s path and consequences of oil spills.

Responding, President Trump called Morris’ ruling both a “political decision” and a “disgrace.” Trump added the pipeline would create jobs and force oil prices lower.

While the Canadian government said it was “disappointed” with the ruling, Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer weighed-in with more biting criticism:

“This is a wake up call for Justin Trudeau. We can’t rely on foreign governments to help us get full value for our resources. We need to take matters into our own hands and build our own pipelines so all Canadians can benefit from our oil and gas industry!”

A project which toiled in limbo until former President Barack Obama blocked the project over emissions concerns, Trump, in one of his first actions in the White House, gave the green light to the pipeline in January 2017.

A pipeline which would shuttle an estimated 830,000 barrels a day from Alberta’s oil sands to terminals on the Gulf Coast, indigenous and environmental groups filed suit, declaring the administration had not studied the project’s impact on the environment.

Government lawyers had argued the administration had relied on Obama-era environmental impact statements, but Judge Morris ruled it was insufficient.

Morris’ decision is expected to push back further development of the pipeline by months.  The pipeline’s builder, TransCanada Corp., stated it “remains committed” to the $8 billion project.

 

[Great Falls Tribune] [The Hill] [Reuters] [Photo courtesy Cody Duty/Houston Chronicle]