USA court halts construction of Keystone XL oil pipeline

A Montana district court judge has ordered the suspension of construction work on the Keystone XL pipeline on the grounds that violations were made in the government's environmental review.

Morris hit the administration with a familiar charge, that it disregarded facts, facts established by experts during the Obama administration about "climate-related impacts" from Keystone XL.

The announcement followed an environmental impact review from the U.S. State Department, which concluded the pipeline's impact on the environment would be "negligible to moderate".

The 1,897-kilometre pipeline would carry as much as 830,000 barrels of crude per day from Hardisty, Alta., to Steel City, Neb., and on through a half dozen states to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

A federal judge blocked construction on the Keystone XL pipeline on Thursday. Trump signed an executive order two days into his presidency setting in motion a course reversal on the Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access pipeline.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris put the project on hold Thursday, ruling that the potential environmental impact had not been considered as required by federal law.

In August, Morris ruled that the State Department was obligated to "analyze new information relevant to the environmental impacts of its decision" to issue a permit for the pipeline past year.


But it has been the subject of protests for more than a decade, both from environmentalists and Native American groups, who say it will cut through their sovereign lands. "We remain committed to building this important energy infrastructure project", the company said in an emailed statement.

Neither TransCanada nor the State Department could immediately be reached for comment on the ruling.

But on Friday McCuaig Boyd said Notley's New Democratic Party government had always supported the Keystone XL plan. "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 Thursday's ruling, Morris wrote that the State Department's analysis of potential environmental effects fell short of a "hard look" on the effects of current oil prices on the viability of Keystone, cumulative effects of greenhouse gas emissions, cultural resources and potential oil spills.

The administration can appeal against the decision.

In 2015, on the eve of the global climate talks in Paris, the Obama administration appeared to bring an end to the seven-year-long saga when it announced it was halting construction of the pipeline, arguing that approval would compromise the country's effort to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. "We will continue our prayers to take action to fight the Trump administration in defense of the sacred, to protect Indigenous rights, to defend our treaty territories, and to advocate for the continuation of the next seven generations of life on Mother Earth free from fossil fuels".

Stephan Volker, who represented the Indigenous Environmental Network called the order a win.

  • Valerie Cook