Judge Blocks Controversial Keystone XL Pipeline

A federal judge blocked the Keystone XL pipeline which was approved by the Trump administration last year, arguing that the justification for its approval was incomplete.

Judge Brian Morris of the District Court for the District of Montana reversed President Donald Trump’s permit for the controversial Canada-to-Texas pipeline, handing a major victory to environmentalists and indigenous rights groups.

The judge’s ruling criticizes the current administration’s decision to revoke the 2015 pipeline denial without proper explanation and says that the State Department “simply discarded” climate change concerns related to the project.

The Hill writes that the decision brings into question the future of the 1,179-mile Keystone XL, which for much of the decade since its proposal by TransCanada Corp. has been a lightning rod in national energy policy.

The Trump administration argued that federal courts had no right to review the President’s approval, claiming it extended from his constitutional authority over border crossings, but the judge rejected that argument. Morris further argued in his ruling that the agency that analyzed the project didn’t properly account for certain factors, including oil spills and the cumulative impacts of greenhouse gases from Keystone and the Alberta Clipper pipeline.

“The major spills that occurred between 2014 and 2017 qualify as significant. The department would have evaluated the spills in the 2014 [environmental review] had the information been available,” Morris, an Obama nominee, wrote.

The judge also said that the agency in question, State, didn’t explain its switch from rejecting the pipeline in 2015 under the Obama administration to disregarding climate change arguments and approving it in 2017 under the current one.

“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,’” Morris said. “The department instead simply discarded prior factual findings related to climate change to support its course reversal.”

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