A Federal Judge Just Blocked the Keystone Pipeline
Judge Brian Morris blocked the construction of Keystone XL on Friday, a controversial 1,179 mile pipeline that has been at the environmental center of protests for the past several years, NPR reports.
Morris, a judge in the US District Court for Montana, arrived at his decision because he said the US State Department’s environmental analysis of the pipeline "fell short of a 'hard look’" at the long-term, cumulative effects of greenhouse gas emissions on the environment and how the pipeline would affect Native American resources. He claimed that the government did not thoroughly review the risk of potential oil spills or propose mitigation measures. He also accused the State Department of omitting prior proven facts about climate change in its analysis.
"An agency cannot simply disregard contrary or inconvenient factual determinations that it made in the past," said Judge Morris in his 54-page ruling.
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The pipeline’s suspension is only pending a more thorough environmental review by the State Department. The order is a result of a lawsuit from the Indigenous Environmental Network and North Coast Rivers Alliance.
The lawsuit accuse the State Department and TransCanada of violating the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires federal agencies to consider enviornmental rerpocussions when making decisions in a systematic and interdisciplinary manner.
Environmentalists and indigenous peoples have protested the pipelines since it was proposed in 2008, saying that it violates historic Native American treaty boundaries and would be detrimental to the environment.
The Obama Administration rejected the Keystone project in 2015 claiming that it would be more economically beneficial to Canada than the US and that its greenhouse gas emissions would hurt the environment.
“America’s now a global leader when it comes to taking serious action to fight climate change,” said President Barack Obama at the time.
“And frankly, approving this project would have undercut that global leadership. And that’s the biggest risk we face — not acting.”
However, President Donald Trump disagreed, reversing the order days after taking office.
The president disagreed with Morris’ ruling on Friday.
“It was a political decision made by a judge,” said Trump referring to Morris’s ruling. “I think it’s a disgrace.”
The Trump administration argued that the pipeline would create more employment opportunities, saying that the project will bring in 28,000 construction jobs. However, the vast majority of these jobs would be temporary and the final pipeline would only permanently employ 35 people.
"The Trump administration tried to force this dirty pipeline project on the American people, but they can't ignore the threats it would pose to our clean water, our climate, and our communities," said Doug Hayes, a lawyer for the Sierra Club environmental group.
If the Trump adminstration appeals the deicsion,the question of the pipeline’s construction will now go to the San Francisco-based Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
If completed, the Keystone XL pipeline would stretch from Canada, through Montana, down to an existing pipeline in Texas. The KXL would be a shortcut to existing routes and would bring more Canadian oil to the US.
Supporters of the project say that buying oil from Canada would further limit the United States’ dependency on the Middle East for energy resources, which could lower oil prices for consumers.
Opponents of the pipeline believe that since the pipeline would cut across Ogallala Aquifer, it could hurt the fresh water supply in the area.
There are also concerns about the pipeline’s potential climate change impact. Crude oil from tar sands, which the Keystone pipeline would carry, generates 17% more greenhouse gases when burned than traditional crude oil.
Native American groups also say that the pipeline’s projected route violates historic treaty boundaries and would impact their local resources.
A smaller Keystone pipeline spilled last year, leaking 210,000 gallons of oil. Critics of the Keystone pointed to the spill as evidence that it would be unsafe.
"Keystone XL would be a disaster for the climate and for the people and wildlife of this country," said Jackie Prange, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the plaintiffs. "As the court has made clear yet again, the Trump administration's flawed and dangerous proposal should be shelved forever.