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U.S. Supreme Court deals blow to Keystone XL pipeline

Federal judge in Montana halts construction of Keystone pipeline
Posted at 6:39 PM, Jul 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-07 15:53:57-04

The U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to allow the developers of the Keystone XL pipeline to move forward on construction as appeals continue in court.

The order keeps in place an April ruling by U.S. District Judge Brian Morris of Great Falls, who wrote that the Trump administration had improperly granted a permit, known as Nationwide 12, to allow construction. U.S. Solicitor Noel Francisco asked the Supreme Court to overrule that decision in May.

Morris' ruling is currently under appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. Morris wrote that the administration had violated federal Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act rules in granting the permit.

The Supreme Court issued a partial stay of that order as it applies to other pipelines under construction in the United States, pending results of the appeal.

The ruling was a victory for Billings-based Northern Plains Resource Council, which was a plaintiff in the original lawsuit against developer TC Energy and the administration to block the pipeline that would run through eastern Montana.

“Farmers, ranchers, tribal communities, and the clean water they depend on are a bit safer today thanks to the high court allowing the justice system to proceed in due course,“ said Dena Hoff, a Montana farmer and member of the Northern Plains Resource Council, in a statement. “The Keystone XL pipeline is a threat to our air, land, water, and climate. We are glad the Supreme Court has rejected this effort to ram through this dangerous Canadian tar sands project.”

U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, a pipeline supporter, said he's disappointed at the Monday ruling.

“The real issue at hand here are the fringe litigants continuing their work to stop critical energy projects. We must move forward on the Keystone XL pipeline that would provide jobs and revenue for Montana,” the Republican from Montana said in a statement.

The Keystone XL pipeline is designed to move oil from the Alberta tar sands and connect to an existing line in Nebraska. The project has been held up in the courts for over a decade.

Related: Biden says he'll revoke Keystone XL pipeline permit if elected