Federal judge halts Keystone XL pipeline construction

Indigenous and climate protesters have long been opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline

Indigenous and climate protesters have long been opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline

A federal judge blocked the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline Thursday, ruling that the Trump administration hadn't justified changing President Obama's earlier rulings.

Judge Brian Morris, of the US District Court for the District of Montana, said construction could not go ahead until a more thorough review of the impact on the climate, cultural resources and wildlife was conducted.

Indigenous and environmental groups had sued TransCanada and the U.S. Department of State after Nebraska authorities approved an alternative route to the one TransCanada had proposed through the state.

Judge Brian Morris' 54-page order, issued late Thursday, overturns the Trump administrations's approval a year ago of the proposed 1,179-mile pipeline and at least temporarily prevents it from being built.

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 department's 2017 conclusory analysis that climate-related impacts from Keystone subsequently would prove inconsequential and its corresponding reliance on this conclusion as a centerpiece of its policy change required the department to provide a 'reasoned explanation, '" Judge Morris said.

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In doing so the administration overturned a ruling by then president Barack Obama in 2015 that denied a permit for the pipeline, largely on environmental grounds, in particular the USA contribution to climate change.

If built, it would transport around 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day from Alberta, Canada, and the Bakken Shale Formation in Montana to facilities near Steele City, Neb. "Today, the courts showed the Trump administration and their corporate polluter friends that they can not bully rural landowners, farmers, environmentalists and Native communities".

The proposed US portion of the pipeline would run about 875 miles through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. Construction of the USA leg had been scheduled to begin next year.

Doug Hayes, a lawyer for the Sierra Club environmental group, said the ruling made clear it was it was time to give up on the "Keystone XL pipe dream".

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

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