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Denouncing Trump's Environmental Impact Review as 'Illegal,' Green Groups Vow to Defeat Keystone XL Once More

"Once again, the Trump administration is attempting to take a shortcut around the legally required review process on Keystone XL, putting our communities at risk for the sake of propping up the Canadian tar sands industry."

#stopKXL sign

A sign against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is posted to a tree in Polk, Nebraska. (Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Green groups denounced an environmental review released Monday by President Donald Trump's State Department—which claims that building, operating, and maintaining the Nebraska portion of TransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would have a "negligible" to "moderate" environmental impact—and vowed to keep fighting the project.

"Once again, the Trump administration is attempting to take a shortcut around the legally required review process on Keystone XL, putting our communities at risk for the sake of propping up the Canadian tar sands industry," declared Sierra Club Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign director Kelly Martin.

In March of 2017, the Trump administration reversed former President Barack Obama's decision to block the pipeline and issued a presidential permit. This new draft assessment (pdf) pertains to the Mainline Alternative Route (MAR), which Nebraska regulators approved in November, even though the path was not evaluated as part of the federal government's 2014 environmental impact statement.

"Landowners, Tribal Nations, and everyday citizens will continue to fight the Trump administration's illegal rubber-stamp of a permit for Keystone XL, and this illegal review."
—Jane Kleeb, Bold Nebraska

The Northern Plains Resource Council, Bold Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and Sierra Club are suing the administration for approving the pipeline using an outdated review and rejected this attempt to, as  NRDC senior attorney Jackie Prange put it, "patch over its total failure to comply with the law by releasing this environmental assessment now."

The administration's new draft assessment claims that the MAR portion of the pipeline would have:

  • a negligible impact on land use, recreation, and visual resources;
  • a negligible to minor impact on socioeconomics and environmental justice;
  • a minor impact on geology and soils, air quality and greenhouse gases, and cultural resources; and
  • a minor to moderate impact on noise and vibration, water resources, and biological resources.

Environmentalists, meanwhile, condemned the administration for "failing to conduct an adequate review of the project's climate impacts, harm to endangered species, or changes in oil prices and market forces since 2014" by producing this "abbreviated" assessment rather than a supplemental environmental impact statement.

Calling Keystone XL "a threat to our land, water, wildlife, communities, and climate," Martin concluded that the pipeline "was a bad idea when it was proposed a decade ago, it was a bad idea when former President Obama rejected it, and it's an even worse idea now."

"Landowners, Tribal Nations, and everyday citizens will continue to fight the Trump administration's illegal rubber-stamp of a permit for Keystone XL, and this illegal review that completely violated due process of affected landowners on the Mainline Alternative Route," vowed Jane Kleeb, founder of Bold Nebraska, an alliance of local opponents to the project.

In addition to the federal lawsuit challenging Trump's permit, as Bloomberg noted, "the pipeline still is facing a case before the Nebraska Supreme Court, which the company expects to be resolved by late this year or early next."

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