LINCOLN — President Donald Trump on Friday issued a new presidential permit for the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline, reaffirming his support for the controversial project while also apparently seeking to sidestep a current federal lawsuit that blocks construction.
The president’s order on Friday supersedes and rescinds a previous permit Trump signed shortly after taking office in 2017.
But it also seeks to kick-start the crude oil pipeline by opening a way around a current lawsuit.
Jane Kleeb, the founder of Bold Nebraska, a group fighting the Keystone XL, said that lawyers are already considering “all legal avenues.”
“We were winning in the court and they knew that path was a dead end for them,” Kleeb said Friday. “So they’re trying a different strategy.”
In November, a federal judge in Montana blocked construction of the 1,179-mile-long pipeline until the U.S. State Department conducted further study of its environmental impact.
That stalled the project, which was designed to transport heavy crude oil, cooked out of tar sands deposits in Canada, from Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast, where refineries can handle the thicker crude.
The project, first proposed 11 years ago, has become a hot button in the national debate over climate change and fossil fuels. Environmentalists as well as landowners in Nebraska maintain that the pipeline is unnecessary, will leak and foul water supplies, and will provide few permanent jobs.
But proponents have maintained that the risks have been overblown, and that America needs an additional source of oil from an ally, as well as hundreds of high-paying pipeline construction jobs.
Former President Barack Obama had denied a permit for the Keystone XL in 2015, citing its impact on global warming. But Trump reversed course, sparking new lawsuits.
TransCanada’s president, Russ Girling, said that the president “has been clear that he wants to create jobs and advance U.S. energy security,” and that the Keystone XL pipeline does both.
“The president’s action today clarifies the national importance of Keystone XL, and aims to bring more than 10 years of environmental review to closure,” the company said Friday.
But Stephan Volker, an attorney for an environmental group that sued to stop the project, called Trump’s move “illegal” and said he could not foresee work on the pipeline proceeding.
A ruling by the Nebraska Supreme Court is also pending on whether the approval of a “mainline alternative route” for the Keystone XL across the state was valid.