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New Lawsuit Challenges Keystone XL Federal Land Right-Of-Way

Environmental groups filed the latest in a series of federal lawsuits against the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline, this time challenging a permit to cross federal lands.

In a lawsuit filed July 14 the groups argue that the U.S. Department of Interior failed to follow environmental laws like the Endangered Species Act when it greenlighted a right-of-way across more than 40 miles of federal land in Montana earlier this year.

This builds upon a years-long legal battle between the Trump Administration pushing permitting ahead and groups who say the pipeline poses a threat to environmental and indigenous interests.

Natural Resources Defense Council lawyer Jackie Prange says that the environmental assessment for the most recent permit is similar to the one a judge returned to the federal government for revision in 2018.

"The [U.S.] State Department has continued to serve as the lead agency and to revise the environmental review documents reportedly to address the deficiencies the court found, but it’s still failed to respond to what the court found to be inadequate in those documents," Prange says.

Among the environmental advocates suing the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Some of the same environmental groups are also involved in another lawsuit against the Keystone XL pipeline that seeks to block construction for the parts of the project that cross waterways. The lawsuit is currently before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In a statement the U.S. Bureau of Land Management sent to YPR the morning of July 15, spokesperson Derrick Henry wrote that the decision meets all requirements for applicable laws, and "The BLM is still reviewing the claims in this suit; however, we stand by the extensive environmental analysis that informed our decision to grant a right-of-way for the federal lands involved in this project."

Another case related to the Keystone XL, this one involving tribal land, is still awaiting the judge's decision.

Copyright 2020 Yellowstone Public Radio

Kayla Desroches reports for Yellowstone Public Radio in Billings. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and stayed in the city for college, where she hosted a radio show that featured serialized dramas like the Shadow and Suspense. In her pathway to full employment, she interned at WNYC in New York City and KTOO in Juneau, Alaska. She then spent a few years on the island of Kodiak, Alaska, where she transitioned from reporter to news director before moving to Montana.
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