Keystone XL Pipeline to Undergo Review


A Montana judge has ruled that TransCanada will be permitted to continue preliminary work on the Keystone XL oil pipeline, though the U.S. State Department will conduct another environmental review of the project.

Judge Brian Morris, of the U.S. District Court in Montana, is the same judge who ordered the supplemental environmental impact statement in November, which blocked the pipeline.

Keystone XL Developments

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 EIS was required because of that rerouting.

The 36-inch diameter pipe will carry crude from the oil fields of Alberta to Steele City, where it would 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, Morris 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 Environmental Impact Statement, 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.

Pipeline Review, Preliminary Construction

During late November, Morris noted that he would clarify his earlier ruling to allow TransCanada to continue engineering and planning for the pipeline; confirm shipper contracts; and handle permits and land rights. Shortly before the allowance was made, TransCanada issued a request to continue with these activities, which are imperative for construction beginning on schedule early next year. The judge is set to clarify on Dec. 5 if TransCanada will be allowed to continue with moving pipes, upgrading roads and preparing work camp sites.

As for the additional review, TransCanada spokesperson Terry Cunha noted that the State Department’s announcement of an additional review was expected in light of mid-November’s ruling.

“It is too soon to say what the injunction will mean to the timeline of the Keystone XL pipeline but we remain confident the project will be built,” Cunha said.

According to CBC News, TransCanada had argued that blocking re-construction work for even a brief window could cause the company to miss the 2019 construction season, which would delay its targeted completion date in 2021.


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

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