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Montana AG outlines case for Keystone XL pipeline

Posted at 8:30 PM, Apr 14, 2021

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen outlined the legal case against President Joe Biden's cancellation of the Keystone XL Pipeline permit to a House subcommittee Tuesday.

Knudsen said the president's action revoking the Keystone XL presidential permit is unconstitutional, because only Congress, not the President, has authority to regulate foreign and interstate commerce.

Knudsen is among 22 state attorneys general suing the Biden Administration over the Keystone revocation. He told the House Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee that Biden is acting contrary to congressional action, pointing to 2011 when Congress expressly permitted the pipeline.

Committee members questioned Knudsen if the AGs' lawsuit was weakened by the fact that Biden used the same executive power to cancel the Keytone XL as former President Donald Trump did to approve it. Knudsen explained that there are subtle differences, most notably that Biden's action was arbitrary and capricious.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe also testified at Tuesday's virtual hearing. Moe called Biden's decision "shortsighted," one he hoped could be reversed. The premier said TC Energy, the Canadian energy company behind the project, has pledged that the Keystone XL will achieve net-zero emissions by 2023, and by 2030 will be the first pipeline powered by all renewable sources.

“We’re told that the Keystone pipeline should not proceed for environmental reasons and this is to support the fight against climate change," said Moe. "But this oil can and most certainly will get to market somehow. It will either go by rail or in many cases by truck — modes of transport that I would put forward are far riskier and identified as having a much higher environmental impact,” said Moe.

Knudsen also pointed out that five of the six Montana counties along the proposed Keystone route qualify as high poverty areas. State and local governments in Montana, he said, lost as much as $60 million per year in tax revenue when the Keystone project was halted.

“These are six of the most rural counties in the nation," said Knudsen. "To build this pipeline, nearly 4,000 workers were going to be in those six counties with an associated payroll of $137 million.”

The lawsuit against the Biden Administration asks the court to declare the president's executive order canceling the pipeline's cross-border permit unconstitutional and unlawful. It also seeks to prevent the Biden administration from taking any action to enforce the permit revocation.

In addition to Montana, attorneys general from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas,Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming have joined as plaintiffs in the suit.

Tuesday's virtual forum was hosted by U.S. Rep. David McKinley of West Virginia.

Related: Virtual forum addresses Keystone XL pipeline concerns