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Judge Blocks Keystone XL, Climate Change Needs to be Considered

A federal judge ruled that the Keystone XL pipeline cannot begin construction because the Trump Administration ignored climate change in their environmental assessment.

Unused Keystone XL pipes sitting in a field

A federal judge in Montana blocked TransCanada from continuing construction on the Keystone XL pipeline. The judge ruled that the Trump Administration did not explain their reasoning well enough for approving the pipeline.

This ruling was a victory for the many environmental activists that spent more than a decade fighting this project. They called the ruling a major setback. Landowners along the pipeline's route and indigenous rights groups shared their views.

The Trump Administration was determined to make this project an example of their policies of exploiting fossil fuels resources with no thought of climate change, so they made a quick environmental review. Full environmental reviews usually take over a year to complete, but the Trump Administration's review took nowhere close to that margin. Environmental activists challenged this review in court, including some key factors in their debate: the time the review took, the increasing climate crisis, and the changes in the oil market, including spills, since the beginning of the pipeline over a decade ago.

Judge Rulings

Judge Brian Morris, of the District of Montana, wrote that the Trump Administration

"simply discarded prior factual findings related to climate change to support its course reversal"

The judge's ruling emphasized the importance of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a law that promotes the enhancement of the environment, as an asset for environmentalists when the Trump Administration is rolling back important regulations about fossil fuel usage and pollution limitations.

The law calls for a full environment impact analysis on a major federal project, including an analysis on the cumulative impacts of pollution, which means looking into carbon dioxide and climate change.

The judge ruled that the Trump Administration failed to follow this law and did not take a "hard look" at all the environmental impacts of the Keystone XL. This includes the cumulative impacts of greenhouse gases emitted from the tar sands the pipeline would carry, a survey of cultural resources along its path, and an up-to-date assessment of oil spills.

"This decision vindicates what we have been saying all along: Trump's approval of this pipeline was illegal, violated environmental laws and was based upon fake facts"

said Tom Goldtooth, executive director for the Indigenous Environmental Network, one of several organizations who filed the suit against the U.S. government in 2017.

President Trump called the ruling "a political decision made by a judge. I think it is a disgrace." Trump also added that they will likely appeal the case to the Ninth Circuit of Appeals, which the President has previously criticized.

Terry Cunha, a spokesperson for the pipeline's developer, TransCanada Corp., said the company is reviewing the ruling but plans to continue moving forward on the project. "We remain committed to building this important energy infrastructure project," Cunha said.

Dena Hoff, a Montana farmer and member-leader of the Northern Plains Resource Council, called the judge's latest ruling "a victory for common sense stewardship of the land and water." She also said in a statement,

"All Americans should be proud that our system of checks and balances can still function even in the face of enormous strains"


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