President Trump made good on a campaign promise to green-light the controversial Keystone XL pipeline in 2017, after years of environmental objections. Federal Judge Brian Morris of Montana has turned Trump’s green light yellow, however.
Morris issued a decision that requires the administration to conduct a more thorough review of potential hazards related to climate change, cultural resources and endangered species — areas the Trump Administration has been notoriously dismissive toward.
Morris cited the Trump State Department’s failure to adequately justify it’s reversal of the earlier Obama State Department’s rejection of the pipeline.
“The department’s 2017 conclusory analysis that climate-related impacts from Keystone subsequently would prove inconsequential and its corresponding reliance on this conclusion as a centerpiece of its policy change required the department to provide a ‘reasoned explanation,” wrote Morris. “The department instead simply discarded prior factual findings related to climate change to support its course reversal.”
Morris continued: “An agency cannot simply disregard contrary or inconvenient factual determinations that it made in the past, any more than it can ignore inconvenient facts when it writes on a blank slate.”
TransCanada and ConocoPhillips who own the Keystone pipeline first developed the Keystone XL to carry oilsands from Alberta to Texas in 2008. By 2010, TransCanada had bought out ConocoPhillips’ interest in the pipeline, and Americans had started to protest its development.
The Obama Administration went so far as to veto a bill that would’ve authorized the Keystone XL pipeline, but just two days after taking office Trump began the work to revive Keystone XL, making Morris’ decision a body blow to the administration’s energy agenda.
“I approved it. It’s ready to start,” said Trump. “It was a political decision made by a judge. I think it’s a disgrace.”
Trump also cited 48,000 jobs the pipeline would create — all but 35 of which are temporary. Meanwhile, there is concern both for the environmental impacts of Keystone XL and related projects as well as the potential destruction of indigenous sites and culture.
The Trump Administration will appeal Morris’ ruling to the Ninth Circuit, which traditionally rules against Trump.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.