Judge Orders New Keystone XL Review
A federal judge ruled Thursday (Aug. 16) that the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline must undergo a new environmental review, rejecting the idea that a recent draft environmental assessment regarding the new proposed route for the line is not sufficient and the impact of the entire project should be re-evaluated.
The so-called “Mainline Alternative” routing, which deviates from owner TransCanada’s original proposed route, was approved by Nebraska regulators last November; the new draft environmental assessment from the U.S. State Department evaluates the alternative route in a shorter form, finding that the project would have minimal negative impact on the environment and cultural resources in the area.
Environmental groups challenged the new assessment, released July 30, calling it “abbreviated” and arguing that the environmental impact study that informed the bulk of the State Department’s 2017 approval is outdated, having been performed in 2014.
Keystone XL was first proposed in 2008 and was rejected by the administration of then-President Barack Obama in November 2015, but President Donald J. Trump invited TransCanada to re-apply for a permit to build after he took office in 2017. The pipeline quickly received federal approval, but the Nebraska Public Service Commission’s approval of the Mainline Alternative route necessitates a new full EIS, according to Judge Brian Morris, of the U.S. District Court for Montana.
The draft environmental assessment released in July was a shorter version of what would comprise a full EIS.
Keystone XL remains somewhat up in the air; while TransCanada has confirmed commercial support for the project and has signaled it will begin clearing vegetation this fall in anticipation of construction, the company has yet to officially declare that it will go through with the project.