Monday, November 19, 2018

Federal judge blocks construction of Keystone XL pipeline over climate concerns

“The Department … simply discarded prior factual findings related to climate change to support its course reversal.”

In a major victory for environmentalists – and the planet – a federal judge dealt a heavy blow to the Trump administration by halting all construction of the notorious Keystone XL pipeline.

Judge Brian Morris of Montana ruled on Thursday night that all construction must halt on TransCanada’s 1,2000-mile long oil pipeline, accusing the State Department of ignoring “prior factual findings related to climate change” and using “outdated information” in relation to the threat the pipeline poses to endangered species, tribal lands, and the environment when pushing through the project.

The Obama administration, after years of heavy resistance followed by a 2014 analysis by the State Department, denied the permit. Then Trump came along and the administration greenlit the project, claiming any damage to the environment would be minimal.

Morris’ ruling consists of a 54-page opinion that references climate change 11 times and accusings the State Department of failing to “analyze the cumulative greenhouse gas emissions” and their impact on the environment and on Native tribes, including impacts on “cultural resources” spanning over 1,000 acres.

He also requires that the Trump administration conduct a more complete review of the potential environmental impacts of the pipeline. All major oil spills between 2014 and 2017 must be accounted for and the review must comply with the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administration Procedure Act.

“The Department … simply discarded prior factual findings related to climate change to support its course reversal,” the judge stated. He also stated the Trump administration violated the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Administrative Procedure Act in approving the pipeline.

If completed the pipeline will cost an estimated $8 million, span 1,180 miles, and would bring over 800,000 barrels of crude oil per day from Canadian tar sands to the United States.

Environmental and Indigenous groups cheered the decision and believe it is a sign that they will continue to win in court.

“This is a win for Lakota, the Oceti Sakowin and other Tribal Nations, for the water, and for the sacredness of Mother Earth,” Tom Goldtooth, executive director for the Indigenous Environmental Network, said in a statement. “This pipeline is the enemy of the people and life as we know it. It must be stopped. We will continue our prayers to take action to fight the Trump administration in defense of the sacred, to protect Indigenous rights, to defend our treaty territories, and to advocate for the continuation of the next seven generations of life on Mother Earth free from fossil fuels.”

“Environmental laws exist to protect people and our lands and waters,” said Marcie Keever, legal director for Friends of the Earth, in a statement. “Today, the courts showed the Trump administration and their corporate polluter friends that they cannot bully rural landowners, farmers, environmentalists and Native communities.”

President Trump doesn’t seem to agree. “It was a political decision made by a judge. I think it’s a disgrace,” the president said on Friday morning.

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