Rejecting what critics have called the Trump administration's "illegal rubber-stamp" of the Keystone XL pipeline, a federal court in Great Falls, Montana has sided with opponents of the project and mandated a full environmental impact review for the proposed route.
"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."
—Mark Hefflinger, Bold Alliance
"This is a huge win for the landowners and Tribal Nation members whose water and environment would be forever threatened by this dangerous tar sands project," declared Jackie Prange, senior attorney at Natural Resources Defense Council.
"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," responded Mark Hefflinger of Bold Alliance. "We'll continue to stand together against this tar sands export pipeline that threatens our land, water, and climate at every opportunity, and at every public hearing during the new court-ordered review of Nebraska."
After President Donald Trump reversed the Obama administration's decision to block the TransCanada pipeline—which would run through Alberta and Saskatchewan in Canada as well as Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska—regulators in Nebraska approved a path that was not part of the federal government's 2014 environmental impact statement. Last month, the Trump State Department issued a draft assessment (pdf) for the Mainline Alternative Route (MAR) through Nebraska, but U.S. District Judge Brian Morris on Wednesday ordered a full review.
While opponents of Keystone XL continue to fight both in court and beyond—by organizing protests, installing solar panels along the planned route, and returning land to local tribes—they celebrated Morris's ruling as a step toward permanently blocking the project.
"This is a huge step to once again shut down this zombie pipeline that threatens water, our homelands, and our treaty territory," said water protector Joye Braun of the Wakpa Waste Camp at the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. "No route is acceptable for Keystone XL, and I believe a full environmental review of this alternative route will highlight the extraordinary risks this pipeline poses to us all."
— David Turnbull (@david_turnbull) August 16, 2018
Marcie Keever, legal director at Friends of the Earth, called the ruling "a decisive moment in our fight against the corporate polluters who have rushed to destroy our planet," and "a victory for the grassroots activists who have worked against the Keystone XL pipeline for the past decade."
"This proposed project has been stalled for nearly a decade because it would be all risk and no reward," said Sierra Club senior attorney Doug Hayes, celebrating this win "for clean water, climate, and communities that would be threatened."
"No route is acceptable for Keystone XL, and I believe a full environmental review of this alternative route will highlight the extraordinary risks this pipeline poses to us all."
—Joye Braun, water protector
"It's always been painfully obvious what a disaster this pipeline will be," added Center for Biological Diversity senior attorney Jared Margolis, "not just for our climate and local communities but for endangered species like the whooping crane."
Though the ruling acknowledged accusations that the federal government failed to comply with the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which requires consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make sure a project is "not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species or threatened species," or destroy their habitat, Morris wrote that the ESA argument will be addressed in a future order.
"Banks and investors backing this project should take a hard look at the risks still on the horizon for this project. TransCanada still has not made a final investment decision on this project," noted Greenpeace USA climate and energy campaigner Diana Best. "The only thing clear about the future of this pipeline is that it will continue to face delays, scrutiny, and uncertainty."
"The judge was right to order another environmental review," Best added, "as this project would worsen the effects of climate change, risk poisoning water, and violate Indigenous sovereignty."
"This decision is another sign that the Keystone XL pipeline is far from a done deal," concluded 350.org executive director May Boeve. "The #NoKXL resistance has inspired a movement of Indigenous leaders, farmers, ranchers, and allies around the world. We're not going anywhere until we stop this pipeline for good."
This post has been updated with comment from Greenpeace USA.