Montana judge orders State Department to do environmental review of Keystone XL line

Could be a delay in construction of the controversial new route for the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline after a Montana federal judge ordered the U.S. State Department to do a full environmental review.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris ruled in support of the Indigenous Environmental Network and others who filed suit challenging the plans of TransCanada to re-route the line in Nebraska. the tribes and ranchers have been filed the $8 billion, 1,180 mile pipeline for more than a decade.

The judge said the State Department should “analyze new information relevant to the environmental impacts of its decision” to issue a permit last year for the pipeline that will carry tar sands oil out of Canada and through Montana and South Dakota and Nebraska.

TransCanada Corporation has yet to respond about the ruling but it had hoped to begin early work in Montana this year with construction underway early next year.

The ruling was “a rejection of the Trump administration’s attempt to flout the law and force Keystone XL on the American people,” said Jackie Prange, a lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group.

In 2015, then President Barack Obama, a Democrat, rejected the pipeline, saying it would add to emissions that cause climate change and would mostly benefit Canadians.

President Donald Trump, a Republican, pushed to approve the pipeline soon after he took office. A State Department official signed a so-called presidential permit in 2017 allowing the line to move forward.

However, Morris declined the plaintiff’s request to vacate that permit, which was based on the 2014 review.

Last year, Nebraska regulators approved an alternative route for the pipeline which will cost TransCanada millions of dollars more than the original path.

In a draft environmental assessment last month, the State Department said Keystone XL would cause no major harm to water supplies or wildlife. That review is less wide-ranging than the full environmental impact statement Morris ordered.

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