‘It’s a disgrace’: Trump blasts judge’s decision to block Keystone XL pipeline

The pipeline would transport up to barrels of crude a day from Alberta Canada and Montana to facilities in Nebraska

TransCanada's $10-billion Keystone XL pipeline project has suffered another setback after a US federal judge blocked its construction to allow more time to study the potential environmental impact.

Judge Brian Morris granted an injunction to stop construction of the 1,900-kilometre pipeline, ruling that the U.S. State Department was obligated to "analyze new information relevant to the environmental impacts of its decision" to issue a permit for the pipeline previous year.

The case is Indigenous Environmental Network v. U.S., 17-cv-00029, U.S. District Court, District of Montana (Great Falls).

The Keystone XL pipeline permit decision was largely in the hands of the State Department, by virtue of its authority to issue "presidential permits" for cross-border infrastructure projects.

If built, it would transport around 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day from Alberta, Canada, and the Bakken Shale Formation in Montana to facilities near Steele City, Neb.

He also ruled the analysis failed to fully review the effects of the current oil price on the pipeline's viability and did not fully model potential oil spills and offer mitigations measures.

The ruling also blamed President Donald Trump's administration, several times, for failing to explain why it had reversed a previous decision made by the Obama administration that cited climate change as a reason for rejecting the project, The Hill reported on November 8. A presidential permit is required for infrastructure projects that cross global borders.

Environmentalists and Native American groups had sued to stop the project, citing property rights and potential oil spills.

After years of legal wrangling, Obama rejected a permit for the pipeline in 2015.

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President Donald Trump called the ruling "a disgrace" on Friday.

It's meant to be an extension of TransCanada's existing Keystone Pipeline, which was completed in 2013.

Canadian heavy crude, traded as Western Canada Select, has been selling at a steadily worsening discount compared with Brent oil, the global benchmark, and West Texas Intermediate in the United States.

Morris' ruling came as Canadian energy company TransCanada began delivering pipe to Montana in anticipation of construction in 2019.

"The Trump administration tried to force this dirty pipeline project on the American people, but they can't ignore the threats it would pose to our clean water, our climate, and our communities", Mr Hayes added.

Neither TransCanada nor the State Department could immediately be reached for comment on the ruling. He ordered the department to complete a full review.

"An agency can not simply disregard contrary or inconvenient factual determinations that it made in the past", Judge Morris said in his ruling.

Jackie Prange, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the ruling a "huge win" not just for the environmental activists and tribal groups who have been fighting the pipeline, but for "anyone who cares about the rule of law and holding this administration to the facts".

Morris' order does not permanently extinguish hopes Keystone XL will go ahead, but it will require the administration to come up with a better explanation as to why it should proceed.

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