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Montana Grants Keystone XL Pipeline Water Crossing Permit With Conditions

Boaters on the Missouri River
U.S. Bureau of Land Management
Boaters on the Missouri River

A Montana agency gave the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline the go ahead to cross water bodies in eastern Montana before the state could fully review over 650 public comments.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality on Dec. 31 granted Canadian developer TC Energy a 401 Water Quality Certification to cross roughly 200 protected water bodies in Montana.

Federal law gives agencies up to a year to come to a decision on a certification.

DEQ Director Shaun McGrath says the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave the department roughly four months, despite DEQ’s request for more time. He says the shortened timeline stops regulators from considering all of the hundreds of comments it received.

“By curtailing that important part of the process so that we don’t fully benefit from the input from the public means that we might have missed some things,” says McGrath.

He says the DEQ accepted TC Energy’s certification request with conditions, including requirements for the company to consult with the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation and avoid contact with water, for example by drilling under the water body. DEQ also reserves the ability to reopen and reconsider the certification.

DEQ will continue to review comments despite Thursday’s decision. McGrath says those comments could inform DEQ if it does decide to revisit the certification at a later date and make changes.

Copyright 2021 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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