Keystone XL pipeline faces new legal roadblock

Federal Judge Halts Construction Of Keystone XL Pipeline

A federal judge issued a major ruling Thursday halting construction of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline until the Trump administration carries out a valid updated environmental review of the project's impact.

Judge Brian Morris of the U.S. District Court for Montana, who was appointed by Mr. Obama, handed environmentalists a huge victory by saying Mr. Trump's decision to sign the permit for the Canada-to-Texas pipeline shortly upon taking office did not have a sufficient basis.

The administration overturned a ruling by the previous Barack Obama administration in 2015 that denied a permit for the pipeline, largely on environmental grounds.

"The Court enjoins Federal Defendants and TransCanada from engaging in any activity in furtherance of the construction or operation of Keystone and associated facilities", the court document reads, "until the Department has completed a supplement to the 2014 SEIS (Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement) that complies with the requirements of NEPA and the APA".

TransCanada, which is pushing the project, did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Friday.

The administration can appeal against the decision.

In 2008, the U.S. State Department issued a presidential permit for the pipeline and TransCanada filed paperwork to expand the project.

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The pipeline is created to run from tar sand oil fields in Canada's Albert province, through Montana, South Dakota and part of Nebraska, to existing facilities in that last state.

TransCanada Corp's almost 1,200-mile pipeline has become one of the major battlegrounds in the climate change debate and, if completed, would carry an estimated 800,000 barrels per day from Canada's tar sands pits to Gulf Coast refineries in the US.

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.

Since its conception, the pipeline has sparked a backlash from environmentalists and indigenous peoples who say it violates historical treaty boundaries and would bring environmental problems.

"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.

Construction on the USA section was due to begin next year.

He also ruled the analysis failed to fully review the effects of the current oil price on the pipeline's viability and did not fully model potential oil spills and offer mitigations measures.

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