U.S. judge blocks TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline

Federal Judge Halts Construction Of Keystone XL Pipeline

A federal judge halted construction of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline on Thursday, in a blow to the Trump administration and a win for environmental groups.

The Great Falls Tribune reports US District Judge Brian Morris' order on Thursday came as Calgary-based TransCanada was preparing to build the first stages of the oil pipeline in northern Montana.

The order stems from a lawsuit filed by the Indigenous Environmental Network and North Coast Rivers Alliance, which alleges that the State Department and TransCanada violated National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, the environmental law described in the order as "the basic national charter for protection of the environment".

Trump granted a permit that allowed energy firm TransCanada to build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline shortly after taking office.

The same environmental analysis that the department carried out before denying the permit in 2015 was ignored when the department turned around a year ago and approved it, the judge argued.

The ruling is a major victory for environmentalist groups that sued to stop the project and for the Native American tribes that have protested against it for years.

In August, Judge Morris ruled that the State Department must supplement a more thorough study of potential environmental effects of the pipeline.

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The judge also argued that the State Department failed to properly account for factors such as low oil prices, the cumulative impacts of greenhouse gases from the pipeline and the risk of oil spills.

He added: "The department instead simply discarded prior factual findings related to climate change to support its course reversal".

Morris particularly criticized the Trump administration for ignoring the recognized effects of the pipeline on climate change.

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.

The proposed USA portion of the pipeline would run about 875 miles through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.

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".

NPR reached out to TransCanada early Friday for comment on the ruling but did not hear back by the time of publishing.

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