Federal Judge Blocks Construction of Keystone XL Pipeline

The pipeline would transport up to barrels of crude a day from Alberta Canada and Montana to facilities in Nebraska

The court blocked any activity furthering the construction or operation until the U.S. State Department completes a supplement to a 2014 environmental impact statement that complies with the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.

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.

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. He had yet to rule on vacating the permit itself.

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.

"These omissions require a remand with instructions to the Department to satisfy its obligations under NEPA", he wrote.

The groups argued the U.S. State Department violated several acts in issuing a presidential permit for the pipeline without a proper environmental assessment of the changed route. At that time, the Department "relied heavily on the United States's role in climate leadership".


That statement falls short of a "factually based determination, let alone a reasoned explanation, for the course reversal", Morris wrote.

However, President Donald Trump reversed the decision shortly after taking office, saying it would bring thousands of jobs. The Trump administration can appeal to a higher court.

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.

"An agency can not simply disregard contrary or inconvenient factual determinations that it made in the past", Judge Morris said in his ruling.

The US stretch of line that needs to be built would be 875 miles (1,450 km) long. Construction of the USA leg had been scheduled to begin next year.

NPR reached out to TransCanada early Friday for comment on the ruling but did not hear back by the time of publishing.

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