MINNEAPOLIS (DTN) — The Trump administration recently issued a presidential permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline as part of a release of a federal review, concluding the proposed pipeline poses no significant threat to the environment. But, on Wednesday, the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana handed down a ruling requiring the administration to conduct a full environmental review of the proposed pipeline route across Nebraska.
The ruling was the result of a lawsuit filed in March 2017 by the Northern Plains Resource Council, Bold Alliance, the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club.
Additionally, a legal challenge was brought by the Indigenous Environmental Network and Northern Plains Resource Council.
The court ordered the federal government to supplement a 2014 final environmental impact statement to include the consideration of an alternative route as approved by the Nebraska Public Service Commission.
A number of farmers and ranchers have opposed the pipeline for fear a pipeline accident could harm sensitive lands and the Ogallala Aquifer in the Sandhills.
The 1,700-mile pipeline is expected to carry about 830,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta oil fields to Texas refineries. TransCanada is set to begin construction of the pipeline in the second quarter of 2019.
In 2014, the Nebraska Legislature passed LB1161, which allowed then Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman to approve a new proposed Keystone route. A lawsuit filed by state landowners along the proposed route challenged the law, saying the state should have allowed the Public Service Commission to approve the route.
That lawsuit alleged the governor’s action violated personal property rights of farmers, ranchers and other landowners, because the law did not include a provision that allows public input ahead of the governor’s decision.
In January 2015, the state’s high court ruled Heineman had the authority to approve the route without PSC involvement.
Although the Obama administration’s state department found in multiple reviews that building the pipeline would have no appreciable effect on climate change or the environment in general, the administration twice rejected TransCanada’s request for a presidential permit.
In January 2016, TransCanada filed a North American Free Trade Agreement claim after the Obama administration rejected the application for a presidential permit. The company claimed the rejection was “arbitrary and unjustified.”
Mark Hefflinger, communications director for Bold Alliance, said the company should put an end to the project.
“We think it’s long past time for TransCanada to throw in the towel and scrap this boondoggle of a project,” he said in a statement. “The court saw through the sham fast-track environmental review that TransCanada and the state department were trying to shove past Nebraska landowners and tribal nations, and ordered them to go back and conduct a thorough and legal review.”
Sierra Club Senior Attorney Doug Hayes said the project should continue to be delayed.
“Today’s ruling is a victory for clean water, climate and communities that would be threatened by the Keystone XL pipeline,” Hayes said in a statement. “This proposed project has been stalled for nearly a decade because it would be all risk and no reward, and despite the Trump administration’s efforts, they cannot force this dirty tar sands pipeline on the American people. It’s time for TransCanada to give up on their Keystone XL pipe dream.”