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Keystone Wins Court Appeal, But Further Legal Challenges Await

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Opponents of the ever-controversial Keystone XL pipeline are exploring “all available legal avenues” to halt the project, after a U.S. appeal court overturned a judge’s decision to reject its construction permit in Montana last November.

District Court judge Brian Morris had ruled [1] that Donald Trump’s executive order authorizing the pipeline had failed to account for its environmental impacts, writing that the White House “simply discarded prior factual findings related to climate change to support its course reversal,” InsideClimate News reports. In response, Trump rescinded [2] his own State Department’s approval of the project and issued a new presidential permit, claiming it needn’t abide by federal environmental reviews because it originated in the White House. TC Energy, the pipeliner formerly known as Trans Canada Corporation, still filed suit against the lower court ruling, and last week’s decision upheld the appeal.

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“The Keystone XL pipeline is a disaster waiting to happen and we will not stop fighting it, or [Donald] Trump’s extraordinary misuse of executive power to disregard the courts and environmental laws,” said Jackie Prange, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We will explore all available legal avenues to stop this dirty tar sands oil pipeline from ever being built and endangering our communities and climate.”

“Landowners and Tribal Nations in Nebraska, South Dakota, and Montana will continue to fight in the courts, despite this decision that ignores our voices and our nation’s environmental laws,” said Mark Hefflinger, communications director for Bold Alliance. “We know this 10-year battle is still far from over, and we’ll continue to stand together against Keystone XL at every opportunity.”

“Despite today’s ruling, we remain confident that Keystone XL will never be built,” said U.S. Sierra Club senior attorney Doug Hayes. “This proposed project has been stalled for a decade because it would be all risk and no reward, and despite the Trump administration’s efforts, they cannot force this dirty tar sands pipeline on the American people.”

“The court is condoning blatant disregard for environmental laws and allowing regulators to put oil company profits over clean waterways and the people and species that rely on them,” said Jared Margolis, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.

“The appeals court ruling does not mean there will be speedy progress on the pipeline, which has been mired in legal challenges for a decade,” InsideClimate notes. “In March, TC Energy said it would not be able to begin construction this year because of uncertainty created by various lawsuits. One case still pending before the Nebraska State Supreme Court challenges the pipeline’s latest planned route through the state. The project also still needs some permits from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Interior Department.”

While TC Energy declared itself “pleased with the ruling” last week, it was singing a different tune in an affidavit just five months ago. “A one-year delay in the construction schedule would impose very significant consequences on TransCanada,” Senior Vice President Norrie Ramsay declared at the time, resulting in “lost earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) of approximately US$949 million between March 2021 and March 2022, based on the minimum take-or-pay shipper commitment.”“Opponents of Keystone XL have successfully stymied the project’s completion for years with legal challenges over threats to regional drinking water aquifers, streams, wildlife habitat, and the global climate,” InsideClimate writes. The latest concerns about flood risk and erosion have been brought into focus [4] by the epic flooding [5] that hit the midwestern United States this spring, notes reporter Neela Banerjee.