9th Circuit Allows Keystone XL Pipeline Construction to Go Forward

June 9, 2019 Updated: June 9, 2019

The Trump administration defeated environmentalist groups in federal court last week, convincing the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to throw out a lawsuit and restraining order that had prevented construction of the $8-billion Keystone XL Pipeline from Canada to the United States.

A three-judge panel of the circuit court, consisting of Judges Edward Levy, Consuelo Callahan, and Carlos Bea, granted the dismissal motion made by the government and pipeline company TransCanada Corp. on June 6.

The job-creating project would add to the existing Keystone oil pipeline, finished in 2013, which runs from Alberta to Illinois, Texas, and Oklahoma. When completed, Keystone XL would move crude oil from Alberta to Montana, Oklahoma, and Texas, stretching 875 miles through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, and other parts of Canada.

As a candidate, Donald Trump campaigned against then-President Barack Obama’s nixing of the pipeline and took action to move the project forward, days after he was sworn in, promising it would create jobs, stimulate the economy, and reduce dependence on foreign oil.

Trump signed a presidential memorandum to promote the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline on Jan. 24, 2017. In it, he formally invited Calgary-based TransCanada to resubmit its application to the Department of State for a presidential permit, a document needed for cross-border infrastructure projects, to move forward with construction of the pipeline.

The department was ordered to “take all actions necessary and appropriate to facilitate its expeditious review” and to “reach a final permitting determination … within 60 days of TransCanada’s submission of the permit application.”

Pipeline supporters cheered on the new ruling.

“We are pleased with the ruling,” Matthew John, spokesman for TransCanada Corp., reportedly said. “We look forward to advancing the project.”

In its determination to move forward with pipeline construction, the Trump administration outmaneuvered pipeline opponents. During the course of the litigation, Trump revoked the 2017 permit allowing the building of the pipeline to move forward, thus depriving the courts of jurisdiction in the case.

The circuit court panel was left with no choice but to dismiss as moot the lawsuit and permanent restraining order against the project issued Nov. 8 last year by Judge Brian Morris of the U.S. District Court in Montana. Morris had ruled with environmentalists, finding that the Department of State disregarded evidence related to climate change needed to measure the potential environmental impact of the pipeline project and had violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which mandates that reasons be provided for certain government decisions.

After withdrawing the initial permit, the Trump administration issued a second permit for the pipeline this past March that environmentalist groups say they will fight in the courts.

After her side lost in court last week, Jackie Prange, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said her left-wing group would fight on.

“The Keystone XL pipeline is a disaster waiting to happen and we will not stop fighting it, or President Trump’s extraordinary misuse of executive power to disregard the courts and environmental laws,” Prange said.

Sierra Club senior lawyer Doug Hayes said: “Despite today’s ruling, we remain confident that Keystone XL will never be built.

“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.”

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