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Block on Keystone XL Construction Lifted

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

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Late last week, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rolled back a previous injunction that halted construction on the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Though this is a step toward project progress, the pipeline developer did note that it was too late to commence work this year. Environmental groups have also stated that they will continue to fight the pipeline.

Keystone XL Saga

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.

© TransCanada Corporation. All rights reserved

Late last week, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rolled back a previous injunction that halted construction on the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The 36-inch diameter pipe would 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 2018, 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 Environmental Impact Statement 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 of this year, the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied TransCanada’s motion to overturn the stoppage.

By April, Trump issued a new presidential permit for the pipeline, one that the president said replaced the one he granted just over two years ago.

Construction Barrier Lifted

The panel dismissed the lawsuit filed by environmental and Native American groups, citing that the president had revoked the 2017 permit, though the president later issued a new permit, a move that essentially makes moot the legal challenge regarding impact on the environment.

TC Energy, which wants to build the project, noted that it is too late for construction to commence this year. The company has also reported that it is pleased with the ruling. TC Energy spokesperson Matthew John did not further detail to the Associated Press if there would be a change to the construction schedule.

Stephan Volker, an attorney working on behalf of the Indigenous Environmental Network and North Coast Rivers Alliance, emphasized that he planned to request another block of the project. White House officials have also said that a presidential permit cannot be reviewed by a court, and with the president’s issuing of the new permit, the lawsuit no longer applied.

"Specifically, this permit reinforces, as should have been clear all along, that the Presidential Permit is indeed an exercise of Presidential authority—that is not subject to judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act," a White House spokesperson told The Hill.

   

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

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