USA judge blocks construction of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline

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

TransCanada Corp.'s long-troubled Keystone XL oil pipeline project hit another roadblock as a U.S. District Court in Montana ruled it must wait for a further environmental review.

The Great Falls Tribune reports U.S. District Judge Brian Morris' order on Thursday came as Calgary-based TransCanada was preparing to build the first stages of the oil pipeline in northern Montana.

Tom Goldtooth, executive director for the Indigenous Environmental Network said the ruling was a win for tribes, water "and for the sacredness of Mother Earth".

The US$8-billion project would help carry 830,000 barrels of crude a day from Hardisty, about 200 kilometres east of Red Deer, to Steele City, Neb., where it could then move on to refineries in the central USA and Gulf Coast. "As the court has made clear yet again, the Trump administration's flawed and risky proposal should be shelved forever".

The judge also argued that the government's analysis had not fully determined the potential for oil spills and had failed to provide substantiating evidence or a "reasoned explanation" for overturning the Obama administration's decision to block construction.

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Morris' ruling requires the Trump administration to conduct a more complete review of the potential environmental impacts of the pipeline.

The permit approval followed years of intense debate over the pipeline amid steadfast opposition from environmental groups.

Canadian heavy crude, traded as Western Canada Select, has been selling at a steadily worsening discount compared with Brent oil, the global benchmark, and West Texas Intermediate in the United States.

The pipeline construction sparked months of protests by Native Americans and activist groups, who say the project could pollute local water supplies.

The massive project remains one of the most controversial infrastructure proposals in modern American history.

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NPR reached out to TransCanada early Friday for comment on the ruling but did not hear back by the time of publishing.

The ruling deals a major setback for TransCanada and could possibly delay the construction of the $8 billion, 1,180 mile pipeline.

"This decision further reinforces the need for Canada to export its oil and natural gas to new global markets - ensuring fair market value for our natural resources, helping to meet growing global demand and expanding our customer base beyond the US", she said.

But the Trump administration dismissed environmental objections as roadblocks and claimed that there were "numerous developments related to global action to address climate change" in the years since Obama-era rejection of the project.

- The State Department, in issuing the permit, failed to "analyze the cumulative greenhouse gas emissions" of the Keystone project and the expanded Alberta Clipper pipeline.

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All of that said, as Pompeo noted on Friday, the waivers are not full waivers. "This is an economic war against Iran but". The main objective from the U.S. side is to force Iran to accept most - if not all - of its 12 conditions and demands".

"An agency cannot simply disregard contrary or inconvenient factual determinations that it made in the past, any more than it can ignore inconvenient facts when it writes on a blank slate", he continued. "It's not over for us, we're just going to keep on going ahead".

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