U.S. judge halts construction of Keystone XL pipeline

U.S. judge halts construction of Keystone XL pipeline

A federal judge in Montana halted construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline on Thursday on the grounds that the USA government did not complete a full analysis of the environmental impact of the TransCanada project.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris said the Trump administration's projections for the pipeline's contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, potential for oil spills and impact on the local Native American community fell short, the Montana-based Great Falls Tribune reports.

Trump granted a permit for the US$8 billion (RM33.4 billion) conduit meant to stretch from Canada to Texas just days after taking office previous year.

Trump, a Republican, said the project would lower consumer fuel prices, create jobs and reduce US dependence on foreign oil.

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

In Thursday's ruling, Morris ordered the government to issue a more thorough environmental analysis before the project can move forward.

Morris' ruling came as Canadian energy company TransCanada began delivering pipe to Montana in anticipation of construction in 2019.

NPR reached out to TransCanada early Friday for comment on the ruling but did not hear back by the time of publishing.

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Environmental and indigenous groups sued TransCanada and the State Department in March to halt the project.

"And frankly, approving this project would have undercut that global leadership", he said, adding that the "biggest risk" the US faced was "not acting".

The proposed USA portion of the pipeline would run about 875 miles through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.

Since its conception, the pipeline has sparked a backlash from environmentalists and indigenous peoples who say it violates historical treaty boundaries and would bring environmental problems.

Morris particularly criticized the Trump administration for ignoring the recognized effects of the pipeline on climate change. If built, it would transport around 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day from Alberta, Canada, and the Bakken Shale Formation in Montana to facilities near Steele City, Neb.

"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 wrote.

The latest ruling follows the court's previous decision in August to require the State Department to also conduct a supplemental environmental impact statement on a new route through Nebraska.

Construction on the United States section was due to begin next year.

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