Keystone Pipeline Construction Halted By Federal Judge

Alex WongGetty Images

A federal judge blocked construction of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline late Thursday night, saying that the Trump administration failed to justify its decision to grant the project’s permit and “simply discarded” how it would effect climate change, the Washington Post reported.

The ruling on the 1,200 mile long project — designed to connect Canada’s oil sands fields with Texas’ Gulf Coast refineries — was made by Judge Brian Morris of the United States District Court for Montana. It overruled one of Donald Trump’s first acts as president, who just two days after taking office signed an executive order approving the pipeline. The pipeline had been previously blocked by former President Barack Obama, citing environmental concerns.

Judge Morris said that the State Department “ignored crucial issues of climate change,” including, the Washington Post said, facts established by experts during the Obama administration. This was done in an effort to fulfill the president’s goal of building the pipeline, a project by Calgary-based group TransCanada, putting the administration in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act that requires “reasoned explanations” of decisions made by the government.

Morris noted in his 54-page opinion that the Trump administration had also used outdated information about the impact of potential oil spills instead of “the best scientific and commercial data available.”

“Today’s ruling makes it clear once and for all that it’s time for TransCanada to give up on their Keystone XL pipe dream,” Sierra Club Senior Attorney Doug Hayes said in a statement. “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.”

Hayes revealed to the Washington Post that equipment had already been moved into Montana and South Dakota, with the company intending to begin construction on the project in early 2019.

Judge Morris’ ruling, however, does not permanently block a federal permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, but rather requires the administration to further review the potential adverse effects related to climate change, cultural resources, and endangered species, the Washington Post detailed.

President Trump commented on the ruling this morning to reporters outside the White House, as the Washington Post relays, calling the judge’s “political decision” a “disgrace,” noting that it would likely go to the ninth circuit “as usual.”

TransCanada issued a statement on Friday, in which the Washington Post reported that they will not abandon the pipeline’s construction.

“We have received the judge’s ruling and continue to review it,” company spokesman Terry Cunha said. “We remain committed to building this important energy infrastructure project.”

But despite the company’s commitment, the judge’s ruling halting the project is still a big win for environmentalists across the country.

“It’s clear that the decision tonight will delay the pipeline significantly,” Hayes said, noting it will probably take a year to complete a proper environmental impact statement. “TransCanada does not have an approved pipeline at this point.”