Environmental Law

A federal judge in Montana on Thursday blocked construction of the Keystone XL pipeline connecting Canadian oil sands fields to Texas refineries, citing the need for additional review of the impact on climate change.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris said the Trump administration violated environmental laws and the Administrative Procedure Act when it relied on a 2014 environmental review to approve pipeline construction in January 2017. The Washington Post, the New York Times and the Great Falls Tribune have coverage; a press release is here.

Morris said the Department of State “simply disregarded prior factual findings” about the pipeline’s effect on climate change while also failing to supplement the older environmental report.

“An agency cannot simply disregard contrary or inconvenient factual determinations that it made in the past, any more than it can ignore inconvenient facts when it writes on a blank slate,” Morris said, quoting from a prior decision.

The Obama administration had denied a permit in 2015, saying approval of the pipeline would undercut U.S. leadership on climate change.

Morris said the State Department had to address several issues in its supplemental review. He said the department should look at new information on the impact of oil spills and their impact on endangered species. He also said the department had to review the cumulative impact of greenhouse gas emissions from Keystone and another pipeline approved for expansion called the Alberta Clipper pipeline.

The plaintiffs in the suit were the Indigenous Environmental Network and the Northern Plains Resource Council.