US judge blocks construction of $10-billion Keystone XL pipeline

Terra Moore KillsMany 34 holds a bottle symbolizing contaminated drinking water during a protest against the Keystone XL Pi

Terra Moore KillsMany 34 holds a bottle symbolizing contaminated drinking water during a protest against the Keystone XL Pi

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.

Trump, a Republican, said the project would lower consumer fuel prices, create jobs and reduce USA dependence on foreign oil.

The Indigenous Environmental Network, River Alliance and Northern Plains Resource Council filed a pair of lawsuits against the U.S.in March 2017 shortly after President Donald Trump gave his approval for the project to cross the U.S.

Morris ruled the Trump administration "jumped the gun" by pushing forward with the pipeline despite concerns over damage to native American heritage and the resulting release of greenhouse gases.

An appeal of the decision is highly likely, as the legal back-and-forth looks set to continue in the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. It has become one of the most controversial oil projects in North America, but it is also one of the most important for Canadian crude oil producers hit by a significant pipeline capacity shortage.

Under President Trump, the State Department wrote "there have been numerous developments related to global action to address climate change, including announcements by many countries of their plans to do so" since the Obama administration's decision two years earlier.

The pipeline, created to move 830,000 barrels per day, runs 1,200 miles through Canada and another 875 miles through the United States.

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Former TransCanada executive Dennis McConaghy, who has written a book on the Keystone XL pipeline saga, said the Calgary-based pipeline giant had successfully re-contracted all the available space on the pipeline, which should sufficiently satisfy the court of the viability of the pipeline. The pipeline would link up with an existing infrastructure in Nebraska, allowing 800,000 barrels of petroleum to flow to the Gulf refineries.

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". Native American groups in Montana and elsewhere fought the Keystone project as well, saying its route failed to adhere to historical treaty boundaries and would impinge on their water systems and sacred lands.

On another pipeline battlefront, the Nebraska Supreme Court heard oral arguments last week from the attorneys from the pipeline's landowners there - the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, the Yankton Sioux Tribe and the Sierra Club.

The ruling in Montana against Keystone XL is "eerily similar" to the Federal Court of Appeals ruling against the Trans Mountain pipeline, according to Chris Bloomer, Canadian Energy Pipelines Association president and CEO.

Asked how'd she react if the case ultimately wound up before the US Supreme Court, Carmen told host John Kiriakou that she doesn't exactly have a lot of faith in the highest court, "especially stacked as it is right now".

Work can not proceed until the State Department completes a supplement to the environmental impact statement that complies with the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedure Act, Morris ruled.

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