Judge Brian Morris blocks Keystone pipeline

Federal Judge Halts Construction Of Keystone XL Pipeline

The judge barred both TransCanada and the U.S. from "from engaging in any activity in furtherance of the construction or operation of Keystone and associated facilities" until the U.S. State Department completes a supplemental review.

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

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

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.

Demonstrators against the Keystone XL pipeline march in Lincoln, Nebraska, in August 2017.

While noting that Thursday's ruling does not completely terminate the Keystone project and that the "now ten-year battle is still far from over", Mark Hefflinger of Bold Alliancedeclared, "Farmers and our Tribal Nation allies in Nebraska, South Dakota, and Montana celebrate today's victory foiling the Trump administration's scheme to rubber-stamp the approval of Keystone XL".

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"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.

He said it could take several months before the State Department is able to issue a new environmental impact statement, putting a timeline for a decision "well into 2019".

The pipeline construction sparked months of protests by Native Americans and activist groups, who say the project could pollute local water supplies. "I think it's a disgrace", Trump told reporters at the White House. "We remain committed to building this important energy infrastructure project", the company said in an emailed statement. "Exact legal recourse options are unclear, but the most likely result is either an escalation through the courts or an additional State Department review and President Trump re-approving the line". In the USA, the pipeline would stretch 875 miles through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, with the rest continuing into Canada.

One of the plaintiffs, the Sierra Club, welcomed the judge's decision.

"There is a clear economic need for the project and we wonder whether TransCanada will choose to pursue the project with a stronger backstop from shippers and/or various levels of government", Kwan said in a note. He also said he expected an appeal and that his administration would soon appoint new judges to the appeals court. "That's why we keep winning in the court". At that time, the Department "relied heavily on the United States's role in climate leadership".

Tom Goldtooth, executive director for the Indigenous Environmental Network said the ruling was a win for tribes, water "and for the sacredness of Mother Earth".

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