Montana Judge Puts Brakes On Keystone XL

Environmentalists and tribal groups cheered the ruling by a US district judge in Montana, while President Donald Trump called it "a political decision" and "a disgrace".

The judge also argued that the State Department failed to properly account for factors such as low oil prices, the cumulative impacts of greenhouse gases from the pipeline and the risk of oil spills.

Stephan Volker, an attorney for the complainants', called Morris' ruling "a landmark".

The decision is a blow to Trump, who signed an executive order after just two days in the White House to grant a permit for the construction of Keystone XL and Dakota Access, another bitterly-opposed project that sparked fierce protests form native American groups.

The 830,000 bpd pipeline will run from the Albertan oil sands through Montana and South Dakota, ending in Nebraska, where it would connect to the existing pipeline network that goes on to the Gulf Coast.

The ruling also blamed President Donald Trump's administration, several times, for failing to explain why it had reversed a previous decision made by the Obama administration that cited climate change as a reason for rejecting the project, The Hill reported on November 8.

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

US President Donald Trump had granted a permit for the pipeline. "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".

The administration can appeal against the decision.

In a 54-page order issued late Thursday, Judge Morris alleges the US Department of State committed multiple violations when it approved the construction of the $8 billion, 1,900-kilometer pipeline in 2017. It has become one of the most controversial oil projects in North America, but it is also one of the most important for Canadian crude oil producers hit by a significant pipeline capacity shortage.

Opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline has centered on climate change concerns, as well as potential damage to endangered species and to local landowners, including native Americans, whose property would be dug up for the pipeline.

The proposed USA portion of the pipeline would run about 875 miles through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. The U.S. Obama said, was now a "global leader when it comes to taking serious action to fight climate change". He ordered the department to complete a full review.

"The department failed to make a fact-based explanation for its course reversal, "let alone a reasoned explanation.'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", he wrote, quoting judicial precedents. "That's why we keep winning in the court".

  • Joey Payne