Published: Fri, November 09, 2018
Sci-tech | By Eric Barnett

US judge blocks construction of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline

US judge blocks construction of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline

A federal judge has ordered a temporary halt to construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, ruling that the Trump administration didn't properly consider the environmental consequences before pushing ahead with the enormous oil project.

Judge Brian Morris granted an injunction to stop construction of the 1,900-kilometre pipeline, ruling that the U.S. State Department was obligated to "analyze new information relevant to the environmental impacts of its decision" to issue a permit for the pipeline a year ago.

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

"This is a significant setback for TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline project and big win for Indigenous defenders, the environment, and for the thousands of people who have been fighting this pipeline for almost a decade".

The US$8-billion project would help carry 830,000 barrels of crude a day from Hardisty, about 200 kilometres east of Red Deer, to Steele City, Neb., where it could then move on to refineries in the central USA and Gulf Coast.

Morris' ruling requires the Trump administration to conduct a more complete review of the potential environmental impacts of the pipeline.

"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.

An appeal of the decision is highly likely, as the legal back-and-forth looks set to continue in the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

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Environmentalists called the ruling a "major setback" for the pipeline project.

Energy producers in Canada already are struggling with a shortage of pipeline space that has hammered prices for their crude, sending its discount to USA benchmarks to the widest on record in recent weeks. Environmentalists and some Native American groups sued to stop the project, citing property rights and potential oil spills.

Construction on the U.S. section was due to begin next year. The U.S. Obama said, was now a "global leader when it comes to taking serious action to fight climate change".

"The department's 2017 conclusory analysis that climate-related impacts from Keystone subsequently would prove inconsequential and its corresponding reliance on this conclusion as a centerpiece of its policy change required the department to provide a 'reasoned explanation, '" Judge Morris said.

Judge Morris is the latest jurist to block Mr. Trump's initiatives under administrative-law rule, claiming that his officials have cut corners in administrative processes to make political decisions.

"An agency cannot simply disregard contrary or inconvenient factual determinations that it made in the past, any more than it can ignore inconvenient facts when it writes on a blank slate", Morris wrote.

"Keystone XL would be a disaster for the climate and for the people and wildlife of this country", said Jackie Prange, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the plaintiffs. "That's why we keep winning in the court".

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