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Keystone XL Permits Fail To Pass Muster In Federal Court

A federal judge in Montana has ruled that permits for the Keystone XL pipeline are invalid because the failed to take into account the impact on endangered species.

Pipelines are the arteries of the oil industry. They bring oil from where it is produced to refineries and then take the finished products to distribution hubs. In theory, they are quite efficient, but in reality they are fraught with danger. They develop leaks which can range from minor to catastrophic. Often those leaks go undetected for long periods of time because the pipelines cross sparsely populated lands where no human supervision exists.

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This week, Brian Morris, the chief judge for the US District in Montana, ruled in favor of a coalition of green groups including the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The plaintiffs brought suit last year claiming the Army Corps of Engineers failed to properly consider the impact the pipeline will have on endangered species and Indigenous people living along the route, according to a report by EcoWatch.

“The court has rightfully ruled against the Trump administration’s efforts to fast track this nasty pipeline at any cost. We won’t allow fossil fuel corporations and backdoor politicians to violate the laws that protect people and the planet,” Tamara Toles O’Laughlin of the environmental group told The Guardian after the ruling was issued. The financing for the pipeline extension — some $1.2 billion worth — is being provided by the province of Alberta, which is desperate to extract every last drop of tar sands oil because its entire economy depends on it to survive.

Judith LeBlanc, director of the Native Organizer Alliance, tells The Guardian, “The revoking of the permit is a victory for treaty rights and democracy. Tribal nations have a renewed opportunity to exercise our legal and inherent rights to protect the water of the Missouri river bio-region for all who live, farm and work on the land.” In a statement, the owner of the pipeline, a division of TransCanada, said, “We remain committed to building this important energy infrastructure project.”

From here, an appeal can be taken to a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. From there, any disappointed party can ask for a review by the entire 9th Circuit Court and after that, any appeal goes to the US Supreme Court. Those last two steps in the judicial review process are discretionary, meaning the 9th Circuit and the US Supreme Court can decline to consider any such appeals.

In a separate note, the parties will be back in court this week before the same judge on a request by Indigenous groups to halt construction immediately due to the risk that pipeline workers will bring the coronavirus infection to local communities. The Keystone XL fight has been going on for 5 years and may continue for another few years before the smoke clears and a final judicial resolution is reached.

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Written By

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else the Singularity may lead him. You can follow him on Twitter but not on any social media platforms run by evil overlords like Facebook.


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