Keystone XL pipeline blocked by federal judge in Montana, throwing project’s future into doubt

The future of the Keystone XL pipeline has been thrown into doubt after a federal judge in Montana blocked its construction, saying the Trump administration approved it after an incomplete analysis.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris on Thursday ruled that the U.S. State Department didn’t look closely enough at factors such as the project’s viability in the face of lower oil prices, new modelling of possible oil spills and ways to mitigate them, or at the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions, The Great Falls Tribune reported.

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“The major spills that occurred between 2014 and 2017 qualify as significant,” Morris said in his decision, as quoted by The Hill.

“The department would have evaluated the spills in the 2014 [environmental review] had the information been available.”

Morris went on to say that the State Department didn’t adequately justify approving the pipeline in 2017 after it was rejected under Barack Obama in 2015, The Hill reported.

READ MORE: Additional environmental assessment ordered for Keystone XL pipeline

With Trump in power, the U.S. government essentially flouted concerns about climate change, he argued.

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“The department’s 2017 conclusory analysis that climate-related impacts from Keystone subsequently would prove inconsequential and its corresponding reliance on this conclusion as a centerpiece of its policy changed required the department to provide a ‘reasoned explanation,” Morris said.

“The department instead simply discarded prior factual findings related to climate change to support its course reversal.”

In a statement, environmental group, the Sierra Club, said the Trump administration “violated bedrock U.S. environmental laws when approving a federal permit” for the pipeline.

“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,” Sierra Club lawyer Doug Hayes said in the statement.

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