A USA district judge has issued an order blocking construction of the controversial transnational Keystone XL Pipeline until the State Department conducts further study of its impact on the environment.
The ruling on Thursday by Judge Brian Morris of the US District Court for the District of Montana dealt a stinging setback to Trump and the oil industry and served up a big win for conservationists and indigenous groups. Trump signed an executive order two days into his presidency setting in motion a course reversal on the Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access pipeline.
The Trump administration gave the go-ahead for the pipeline's construction in March 2017, overruling a decision by former President Barack Obama's government that stalled the project on environmental grounds.
Morris' ruling requires the Trump administration to conduct a more complete review of the potential environmental impacts of the pipeline.
"An agency cannot simply disregard contrary or inconvenient factual determinations that it made in the past, any more than it can ignore inconvenient facts" in the present, Morris wrote, citing case law.
The administration can appeal against the decision.
He noted that the State Department denied the permit in 2015, relying on climate change information under the Obama administration, which the Trump administration simply dismissed. The pipeline would link up with an existing infrastructure in Nebraska, allowing 800,000 barrels of petroleum to flow to the Gulf refineries.
The construction of the Keystone XL pipeline has been stopped by a federal judge in Montana - at least until there's more environmental study on its impact.
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TransCanada said in a statement to BNN Bloomberg that the company is reviewing the USA judge's ruling on Keystone XL.
He said the decision also fell short in other areas, including the impact on Native American lands, and did not take into proper consideration issues like oil spills and low prices.
Delays also may send TransCanada back to oil producers or Canada's government for assurances that the trouble of trying to push ahead with the pipeline will be worthwhile, according to Royal Bank of Canada's Robert Kwan.
TransCanada is blocked from "engaging in any activity in furtherance of the construction or operation of Keystone and associated facilities" until the State Department can confirm that doing so would not violate the Administrative Procedure Act or the National Environmental Policy Act.
"I would call it a landmark ruling because it overturns a presidential decision purporting to find that a transboundary project is in the public interest", Stephan Volker, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told the Great Falls Tribune.
The pipeline construction sparked months of protests by Native Americans and activist groups, who say the project could pollute local water supplies.
"It was a political decision made by a judge".