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President Trump Issues Keystone XL Permit

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

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Late last month, President Donald J. Trump issued a new presidential permit for TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, one that the president said replaced the one he granted just over two years ago. Most recently, U.S. Justice Department attorneys expressed interest in having construction proceed on the pipeline.

According to the Associated Press, a spokesperson for the White House noted that the new permit “dispels any uncertainty” about Keystone XL. The pipeline was last blocked by a judge in November.

Keystone XL History

The 1,179-mile Keystone XL was first proposed by TransCanada in 2008 and was subject to years of reviews and delays before the State Department under former President Barack Obama rejected the plan in late 2015 on the grounds that it was not in the national interest of the United States. During the seven years that the line was under consideration, it had become a lightning rod for environmental activists.

When President Donald J. Trump entered office, one of his first acts was to formally invite TransCanada to re-apply for permission to build the line; the company did, and quickly received permits from the federal government.

The final state to approve the pipeline, Nebraska, did so last November on the condition that TransCanada build on the “Mainline Alternative” route, which co-locates with existing rights-of-way for more miles than the company’s preferred route. A new Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement was required because of that rerouting.

© TransCanada Corporation. All rights reserved

Late last month, President Donald J. Trump issued a new presidential permit for TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, one that the president said replaced the one he granted just over two years ago. Most recently, U.S. Justice Department attorneys expressed interest in having construction proceed on the pipeline.

The 36-inch diameter pipe will carry crude from the oil fields of Alberta to Steele City, where it will then be moved via other pipelines to terminals in the Midwest and Gulf Coast. According to TransCanada, water crossings along the line will be made via horizontal directional drilling in order to minimize environmental impact, and the pipe under rivers will be made of thicker steel and protected with abrasion-resistant coatings to reduce the risk of damage that could lead to an underwater release.

In August, Judge Brian Morris, of the U.S. District Court in Montana, ruled that the State Department’s environmental assessment of the long-delayed pipeline’s new route was insufficient and that the project required a full EIS before it could be approved to move forward. In September, the State provided its draft Supplemental EIS, which finds that the line would have negligible to minor impacts on most of the resources studied.

In mid-November, Morris cited in his ruling that the Trump administration had not justified granting a permit for the project, and that the State Department disregarded issues regarding climate change to further the project’s agenda. In early December, Morris ruled that TransCanada would be permitted to continue preliminary work on the Keystone XL oil pipeline, though the U.S. State Department would conduct another environmental review of the project. In March, the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied TransCanada’s motion to overturn the stoppage.

Presidential Permit

According to the Associated Press, Stephan Volker, a lawyer representing environmentalist groups, called the president’s act illegal. Volker went on to say he would seek a court order blocking project construction work from moving forward.

TransCanada, on the other hand, noted that the president’s permit “clarifies the national importance of Keystone XL," seeking to bring close to a decade of environmental review to an end. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also touted the president’s decision to grant a permit.

“Review after review has found it can be built and operated in an environmentally responsible way. It’s time to move forward,” said Christopher Guith, acting president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Institute.

Earlier this month, the Trump administration asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a lower court stoppage to construction. Environmental groups responded shortly thereafter with their own legal filing, asking the appeals court to keep the stoppage in place.

   

Tagged categories: Government; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Oil and Gas; Pipeline; Program/Project Management

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