Federal judge’s ruling delays Keystone XL pipeline

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The case is Indigenous Environmental Network v. U.S., 17-cv-00029, U.S. District Court, District of Montana (Great Falls).

According to a report in The Hill, Judge Morris said the State Department didn't properly take into account the effects of global warming, the risk of oil spills and worldwide oil prices.

A federal judge says the Trump administration did not consider environmental consequences of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, dealing a setback for the Trump administration and a win for environmental groups. Trump signed an executive order two days into his presidency setting in motion a course reversal on the Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access pipeline.

TransCanada Corp's almost 1,200-mile pipeline has become one of the major battlegrounds in the climate change debate and, if completed, would carry an estimated 800,000 barrels per day from Canada's tar sands pits to Gulf Coast refineries in the US.

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The administration overturned a ruling by the previous Barack Obama administration in 2015 that denied a permit for the pipeline, largely on environmental grounds.

The Trump administration has regularly run afoul of the courts in its attempts to repeal environmental rules and approve fossil fuel projects.

Then came policy shifts in the Trump administration. "The Trump administration tried to force this dirty pipeline project on the American people, but they can't ignore the threats it would pose to our clean water, our climate, and our communities".

An appeal of the decision is highly likely, as the legal back-and-forth looks set to continue in the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. TransCanada, the Calgary-based group behind the project, did not respond to request for comment early Friday morning.

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Judge Brian Morris' 54-page order, issued late Thursday, overturns the Trump administrations's approval past year of the proposed 1,179-mile pipeline and at least temporarily prevents it from being built. It has become the focal point of a decade-long dispute that pits Democrats, environmental groups and Native American tribes who warn of pollution and increased greenhouse gas emissions against business groups and Republicans who cheer the project's jobs and potential energy production.

Opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline has centered on climate change concerns, as well as potential damage to endangered species and to local landowners, including native Americans, whose property would be dug up for the pipeline.

The US stretch of line that needs to be built would be 875 miles (1,450 km) long. Morris said that review was inadequate. He ordered the department to complete a full review.

"An agency cannot simply disregard contrary or inconvenient factual determinations that it made in the past, any more than it can ignore inconvenient facts when it writes on a blank slate", Morris' judgement read.

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Morris' order does not permanently extinguish hopes Keystone XL will go ahead, but it will require the administration to come up with a better explanation as to why it should proceed.

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