Montana Public Radio

U.S. Supreme Court Blocks Keystone XL Permit

Jul 8, 2020
Originally published on July 7, 2020 7:48 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court on July 6 upheld a stay on parts of construction for the 1,200-mile Keystone XL crude oil pipeline, which broke ground in northern Montana earlier this year.

The Supreme Court's paragraph-long ruling gives many utility projects like pipelines across the U.S. permission to continue construction while an appeal over a nationwide water permit program is ongoing.

The ruling’s most pointed exception is the Keystone XL pipeline. It blocks construction for the parts of the project that cross waterways while it’s caught up in the courts.

Doug Hayes with the Sierra Club is one of the attorneys representing environmental advocacy groups, including Billings based Northern Plains Resource Council, that sued the Trump Administration last year.

Hayes says his clients argue the water permit, called Nationwide Permit 12, is a streamlined process that allows companies to build across U.S. water bodies without factoring in environmental impacts or public input.

“If the Keystone XL wants to seek an individual permit process, which is the normal permitting process under the Clean Water Act, they’re free to do so, but we see this as a victory for Keystone XL in terms of protecting streams, wetlands and protected species along the pipeline route from construction,” Hayes said. 

In a statement, Keystone XL pipeline developer, Canada-based TC Energy, said, “While today’s ruling from the Supreme Court is positive for the oil and gas industry overall, it continues to delay large portions of construction on our Keystone XL project and the thousands of high-paying union jobs that come with it.”

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling did not include a reason for its decision or exception of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Earlier this spring, Montana federal Judge Brian Morris vacated Nationwide Permit 12 under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for failing to follow the Endangered Species Act. The Trump Administration filed to appeal the court’s decision. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will consider the case in the fall.

Also on Monday, a judge ordered the Dakota Access pipeline shut down for additional environmental review more than three years after it began pumping oil.

The Associated Press reports the ruling hands a victory to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota and delivers a blow to President Donald Trump’s efforts to weaken public health and environmental protections his administration views as obstacles to businesses.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington, D.C., wrote that he was “mindful of the disruption” that shutting down the pipeline would cause, but that it must be done within 30 days.

AP reports a federal judge rejected pipeline owner Energy Transfer's July 6 request for an emergency stay order to delay the shut down process while attorneys appeal the ruling.

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