Federal Judge Blocks Keystone XL Pipeline

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge has blocked a permit for construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada and ordered officials to conduct a new environmental review.

Environmentalists and tribal groups cheered the ruling by a U.S. district judge in Montana, while President Donald Trump called it “a political decision” and “a disgrace.”

The 1,184-mile pipeline would begin in Alberta and shuttle as much as 830,000 barrels a day of crude through a half dozen states to terminals on the Gulf Coast.

Trump has touted the $8 billion pipeline as part of his pledge to achieve North American “energy dominance” and has contrasted his administration’s quick approval of the project with years of delay under President Barack Obama.

The Trump administration has not said whether it would appeal the new ruling. The State Department said it was reviewing the decision, but declined further comment, citing ongoing litigation.

The pipeline was first proposed by Calgary-based TransCanada in 2008. It has become the focal point of a decade-long dispute that pits Democrats, environmental groups and Native American tribes who warn of pollution and increased greenhouse gas emissions against business groups and Republicans who cheer the project’s jobs and potential energy production.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris put a hold on the project late Thursday, ruling that the State Department had not fully considered potential oil spills and other impacts as required by federal law. He ordered the department to complete a new review that addresses issues that have emerged since the last environmental review was completed in 2014.

New topics include the cumulative effects on greenhouse gas emissions of Keystone XL and a related pipeline that brings oil from Canada; the effects of current oil prices on the pipeline’s viability; updated modeling of potential oil spills; and the project’s effect on cultural resources of native tribes and other groups along the pipeline’s route.

The review could take up to a year to complete.

Environmentalists and Native American groups had sued to stop the project, citing property rights and possible spills.

TransCanada said in a statement that it was reviewing the judge’s 54-page decision. “We remain committed to building this important energy infrastructure project,” TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha said.

Environmental groups declared victory and predicted the long-delayed project will never be built.

The court ruling “makes it clear once and for all that it’s time for TransCanada to give up on their Keystone XL pipe dream,” said Doug Hayes, a senior attorney with the Sierra Club, the nation’s largest environmental group.

TransCanada had recently announced plans to start construction next year, after a State Department review ordered by Morris concluded that major environmental damage from a leak is unlikely and could quickly be mitigated. Morris said that review was inadequate.

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