Federal judge issues setback to Trump administration plans on Keystone XL pipeline
10 November, 2018, 01:41 | Author: Dwayne Harmon
The order stems from a lawsuit filed by the Indigenous Environmental Network and North Coast Rivers Alliance, which alleges that the State Department and TransCanada violated National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, the environmental law described in the order as "the basic national charter for protection of the environment".
Morris said in his decision Thursday the government's analysis didn't fully study the cumulative effects of greenhouse gas emissions, the effects of current oil prices on the pipeline's viability or include updated modelling of potential oil spills.
"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".
Trump criticized the ruling, calling it a disgrace.
Trump claimed there would be "great construction jobs" stemming from Keystone XL, which involves the building of a 1,200 mile pipeline across six USA states in order to bring crude oil from Alberta in Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast.
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.
Keystone XL roused a major environmental protest movement during Barack Obama's presidency, leading to arrests outside the White House and promises by activists to harass construction along the pipeline's route. "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 is appealing numerous rulings and may appeal Thursday's decision as well. Environmentalists and Native American groups had sued to stop the project, citing property rights and possible spills.
The same environmental analysis that the department carried out before denying the permit in 2015 was ignored when the department turned around previous year and approved it, the judge argued.
What is the Keystone XL Pipeline?
The proposed US portion of the pipeline would run about 875 miles through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.
Morris said, however, that there have indeed been changes since the 2014 assessment and that the Trump administration failed to consider them.
The analysis of a cross-border project like this is done by the State Department. He ordered the department to complete a full review.
"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.
Morris' order does not permanently extinguish hopes Keystone XL will go ahead, but it will require the administration to come up with a better explanation as to why it should proceed.
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