Federal judge allows lawsuits against Keystone XL pipeline to proceed

In a major blow to President Donald Trump’s plans for the Keystone XL pipeline, a federal judge denied the Trump administration’s bid to halt a number of lawsuits against the project.

This ruling allows lawsuits brought by environmentalists and indigenous tribes against the administration to proceed, creating yet another obstacle for the long-awaited pipeline.

The Keystone pipeline

The Keystone Pipeline System was first proposed by the TransCanada Corporation in 2005, with the aim of transporting crude oil directly from Canada through key points in the U.S. and all the way to the gulf coast. The project was touted as a major job-creator that would have a “limited effect on the environment,” per the State Department review.

Currently, the Keystone pipeline is operational but an extension of the pipeline has been proposed, which has prompted a new round of lawsuits and controversy.

According to the Environmental and Energy Law Program at Harvard University, “600,000 barrels of oil per day between Canada and the U.S. The Keystone Pipeline System runs from the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin in Alberta to refineries in Illinois and Texas, and also to oil tank farms and an oil pipeline distribution center in Cushing, Oklahoma.”

The issue at hand is a proposed extension of the existing pipeline, which would “connect to the existing pipeline system to bring oil from Hardisty in Alberta, Canada directly to Steele City, Nebraska.”

However, the construction of the extension or “Keystone XL”  has been blocked at every turn, with environmentalist groups citing concerns about the impact on wildlife, and indigenous groups contesting the cross-border permits issued for the project.

The current issue

Trump issued a presidential permit to jump-start the construction of Keystone XL in March of 2017, which prompted a wave of lawsuits. U.S. District Judge Brian Morris blocked that permit in 2018. Trump then issued another presidential permit in March of 2019, which drew another round of lawsuits.

The Trump administration’s response to these most recent lawsuits was to argue that the president has “total authority” to approve the construction, but Obama-appointed Judge Brian Morris wasn’t having it.

In his decision Friday, he ruled that “the Rosebud Sioux and Fort Belknap Indian tribes made credible claims that the line violated their treaty rights.”

The silver lining

The silver lining for Trump in this ruling is that Morris denied environmentalist groups the requested injunction against preliminary construction on the pipeline since work isn’t scheduled to begin until the spring of 2020.

The Hill reports that if Trump’s plan makes it through the legal process, the finished pipeline “would deliver an estimated 830,000 barrels of crude daily from western Canada to the Gulf Coast.”

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