Montana Federal Judge Halts Keystone XL Pipeline

Indigenous and climate protesters have long been opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline

In its ruling Thursday, however, the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana found that in its reversal of the Obama-era decision, the Trump administration's U.S. Department of State had violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. "We remain committed to building this important energy infrastructure project", TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha said.

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.

The court has asked the government to review its assessment and revise it, taking into account the changes in the oil markets since 2014, the latest in climate change, and the presence of "cultural resources" along the route of the pipeline that was planned to carry heavy oil from Alberta to US refineries.

"An agency can not simply disregard contrary or inconvenient factual determinations that it made in the past", Morris wrote Thursday.

"This is a complete repudiation of the Trump administration's attempts to evade environmental laws and prioritize oil company profits over clean water and wildlife", Jared Margolis, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in astatement.

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An appeal of the decision is highly likely, as the legal back-and-forth looks set to continue in the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Construction on the USA section was due to begin next year.

"This really underscored the painful year that Western Canadian producers are having and it's really a function of the lack of infrastructure", Rogers said of the ruling, which exacerbates Canada's pipeline pinch that has led to record-setting US$50-per barrel discounts for Canadian crude.

The major oil pipeline proposed by Calgary-based TransCanada Corp. would link Alberta's oilsands to refineries and overseas markets on the Texas Gulf Coast.

But on Friday McCuaig Boyd said Notley's New Democratic Party government had always supported the Keystone XL plan.

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With the Keystone XL once again on hold and a judge ordering the Trump administration to redo the reasoning behind its approval, the pipeline's future remains as uncertain as ever.

The project has met sustained opposition from environmental advocacy groups, who argue the pipeline would be especially damaging to the climate because it would mean extracting thick, low-quality oil from Canada's oil sands, with tree-cutting and energy consumption in the process.

"It was a political decision made by a judge".

Work can not proceed until the State Department completes a supplement to the environmental impact statement that complies with the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedure Act, Morris ruled.

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.

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Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, which was one of the plaintiffs asking for the injunction, said his group felt vindicated by the ruling.

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