Federal judge in Montana halts Keystone XL pipeline for study

Nov. 9 (UPI) — The construction of the Keystone XL pipeline has been stopped by a federal judge in Montana — at least until there’s more environmental study on its impact.

The long-running saga of the contentious oil pipeline, which has been the subject of protests and national political debate, took another turn when U.S. District Judge Brian Morris sided with environmental groups late Thursday in its lawsuit against the Trump administration and pipeline builder TransCanada.

Morris’s court order said the administration’s use of a 2014 environmental review to justify giving a presidential permit for construction violated three federal laws — the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.

The Trump administration issued a permit giving the go-ahead for the pipeline’s construction in March 2017, overruling a decision by the Obama administration that held up the project.

“I would call it a landmark ruling because it overturns a presidential decision purporting to find that a transboundary project is in the public interest,” Stephan Volker, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told the Great Falls Tribune.

“And Judge Morris correctly ruled it was not in the public interest because Secretary [of State John] Kerry had found in a detailed ruling several years ago it was not in the public interest,” he added.

The pipeline is routed to cross the Milk River, west of Nashua, and the Missouri River near the mouth of the Milk. The position is 57 miles upstream from the intake of the Assiniboine and Sioux Rural Water Supply System.

TransCanada said the pipeline would be safe with its protective measures, but the plaintiffs argue it threatens their water supply and environment.

The pipeline, which runs from Alberta, Canada, and Montana to facilities in Nebraska, is supposed to move 830,000 barrels per day. It runs 1,200 miles through Canada and another 875 miles through the United States.

On another pipeline battlefront, the Nebraska Supreme Court heard oral arguments last week from the attorneys from the pipeline’s landowners there — the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, the Yankton Sioux Tribe and the Sierra Club.

The groups are challenging a ruling from the Nebraska Public Service Commission to grant permission for the pipeline to run through their state.

The groups have failed to stop the pipeline despite fighting TransCanada on state constitutional challenges, lawsuits against land condemnation and now the public service commission’s decision, WOWT-TV reported.

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