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Federal judge orders environmental review of Keystone XL pipeline

August 17, 2018

A federal court in Montana has ruled that TransCanada must conduct an additional environmental review before it moves forward with the alternative route that has been approved for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

The decision is being hailed by those opposing the pipeline as a victory.

However, it’s not clear whether the decision will slow the project. U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris declined to nullify President Donald Trump’s decision that allowed the pipeline to go forward. And he told TransCanada, the pipeline developer, to prepare a timeline for the environmental review that would allow TransCanada to move forward with planned construction in the second quarter of next year.

In November 2017, the Nebraska Public Service Commission denied TransCanada’s application for its preferred route and instead approved an alternative route that skirted a bit more of the Nebraska Sand Hills. The alternative route goes through five different counties and crosses several different water bodies than the original, preferred route. In late July, the U.S. State Department concluded that the pipeline’s amended route would have mostly negligible to minor effects on farmland, water resources and the environment.

Bold Alliance, an opponent that was among the plaintiffs in the case, welcomed the decision.

“The court saw through the sham fast-track environmental review that TransCanada and the State Department were trying to shove past Nebraska landowners and Tribal Nations,” Mark Hefflinger of Bold Alliance said in a statement.

A spokesman for TransCanada could not immediately be reached.

TransCanada is seeking to complete its 36-inch pipeline from the tar sands fields of Alberta to oil refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Yet to be decided by the judge is whether the federal government violated the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act.

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