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.