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'Trump Is Not Above the Law': New Lawsuit Aims to Defeat Keystone XL

"We won't stop fighting Trump's underhanded attempt to dodge the courts and ram this dirty fossil fuel project down America's throat."

Opponents of the Keystone XL

Opponents of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines protest President Donald Trump's executive orders advancing their construction, at Lafayette Park next to the White House in Washington, D.C, on Jan. 24, 2017. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

As climate scientists on Monday issued a fresh warning about the devastating consequences of continuing to burn and extract fossil fuels, national green groups filed a new federal lawsuit targeting the Trump administration's efforts to force through the long-delayed Keystone XL crude oil pipeline.

"Though he seems to think otherwise, Donald Trump is not above the law, and we won't allow him to endanger wildlife, clean water, and the climate to allow a Canadian company to move more tar sands through the United States."
—Doug Hayes, Sierra Club

The lawsuit (pdf) was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana, the same court that halted construction on the dirty energy project last year, ruling that the administration hadn't adequately considered the consequences of the pipeline when approving it. In response, President Donald Trump revoked the initial permit and issued a new one in March.

"After we won in court, Trump tried to skirt the law," Jackie Prange, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), said in a statement Monday. "But as this new lawsuit shows, no president can, on a whim, unilaterally exempt the government from complying with our nation's bedrock environmental laws."

Jared Margolis, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), vowed that opponents of the pipeline "won't stop fighting Trump's underhanded attempt to dodge the courts and ram this dirty fossil fuel project down America's throat."

The NRDC and CBD joined with Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, Bold Alliance, and Northern Plains Resource Council in launching the new legal battle, which specifically challenges the Army Corps of Engineers' approval of the pipeline that would transport up to 830,000 barrels of crude oil daily across nearly 1,200 miles from Canada's Alberta tar sands to Steele City, Nebraska.

"The Army Corps' lack of transparency in their review process for the Keystone XL pipeline is deeply disturbing," said Marcie Keever, legal director at Friends of the Earth. "On such a major project, the communities who are on the front lines deserve a comprehensive environmental review to protect themselves and our environment. Rubber-stamping Trump's attempt to build the dirty Keystone XL pipeline behind closed doors is devastating for the farmers, tribes, and communities along its route."

Rubber-stamping Trump's attempt to build the dirty Keystone XL pipeline behind closed doors is devastating for the farmers, tribes, and communities along its route."
—Marcie Keever, Friends of the Earth

The green groups collectively warned in a joint statement that "construction activities and spills from the pipeline would threaten protected species like the pallid sturgeon, the American burying beetle, and the critically endangered whooping crane, which remains at the brink of extinction."

"Our scenic Niobrara River and the Platte River, where Sandhill and Whooping Cranes migrate, along with farmers' water wells, are all at risk with this foreign, export pipeline," added Bold Alliance founder Jane Kleeb.

In addition to filing suit Monday, the groups also sent notices to the Army Corps, Trump, companies that would construct power lines for Keystone XL's pump stations, and TC Energy—the pipeline company formerly called TransCanada—informing each recipient that their actions related to the project violate the law. The notices set up an opportunity for future legal action under the Endangered Species Act.

"Though he seems to think otherwise, Donald Trump is not above the law, and we won't allow him to endanger wildlife, clean water, and the climate to allow a Canadian company to move more tar sands through the United States," said Sierra Club senior attorney Doug Hayes. "We've held off construction of Keystone XL for more than a decade, and we won't stop until this dirty tar sands proposal is put to rest for good."

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