In a major setback for President Trump and his administration, a U.S. district judge has issued an order to block construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline while the State Department studies its impact on the environment. Last year, the Trump administration approved the controversial 1,179-mile pipeline, but Judge Brian Morris’ 54-page order is preventing it from being built — for now.
The decision does not permanently stop construction, but it is putting the development on hold until the State Department takes a harder look at the impact the pipeline will have on oil prices, the cumulative effects of greenhouse gas emissions, potential oil spills and cultural resources.
Under the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, there is an obligation to protect the environment. Under the Obama administration, the State Department denied a permit to build the pipeline because of the environmental effects. But President Trump shifted the policy when he took office and invited TransCanada to re-submit its permit application just four days after he was sworn in. Then, in March 2017, the POTUS signed an executive order supporting the Keystone Pipeline’s construction.
Judge Morris wrote in his decision that the president did not give a reasoned explanation or a fact-based determination for the course reversal. According to NPR, there has been a lot of backlash from environmentalists and indigenous peoples since the pipeline’s conception in 2008 because of the possible environmental impact and violations of historic treaties.
“Today’s ruling is a decisive moment in our fight against the corporate polluters who have rushed to destroy our planet,” said Marcie Keever, legal director at Friends of the Earth. “Today, the courts showed the Trump administration and their corporate polluter friends that they cannot bully rural landowners, farmers, environmentalists and Native communities.”
If the Keystone Pipeline does become a reality, it will run through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska and Canada, and it will transport about 830,000 barrels of crude oil each day.
Image via Pax Ahimsa Gethen