Pipeline opponents were back in U.S. federal court last Friday, contending that Donald Trump acted illegally when he issued  a new permit for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline in defiance of a previous court order.
“In November, U.S. District Judge Brian Morris ruled  that the Trump administration did not fully consider potential oil spills and other impacts when it approved the pipeline in 2017,” The Associated Press recalls. “Trump’s new permit, issued last week, is intended to circumvent that ruling and kick-start the proposal to ship crude oil from the tar sands of western Canada to U.S. refineries.”
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While “White House officials have said the presidential permit is immune from court review,” the news agency adds, “legal experts say that’s an open question, and the case could further test the limits of Trump’s use of presidential power to get his way.”
Particularly because a court had already ruled on the matter.
“This is somewhat dumbfounding, the idea that a president would claim he can just say, ‘Never mind, I unilaterally call a do-over,’” said Georgetown University Law Center constitutional scholar William Buzbee.
“We have confidence that the federal courts—long the protectors of our civil liberties—will once again rise to the challenge and enforce the Constitution and the laws of this land,” said lawyer Stephan Volker, representing the environmental groups behind Friday’s lawsuit. He added that Trump was seeking to “evade the rule of law” with the new permit.
TransCanada spokesperson Matthew John said Trump’s latest attempt “clearly demonstrates to the courts that the permit is (the) product of presidential decision-making and should not be subject to additional environmental review.” But AP says the responding lawsuit “was filed in Morris’ court, meaning he’s likely to get the first opportunity at addressing the legality of Trump’s new order. Judges typically do not respond favourably to perceived end runs around their decisions, said Carl Tobias with the University of Richmond law school.”