A federal judge blocked the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline Thursday, saying the Trump administration’s justification for approving it last year was incomplete.
In a major victory for environmentalists and indigenous rights groups, Judge Brian Morris of the District Court for the District of Montana overturned President Trump’s permit for the Canada-to-Texas pipeline, which the president signed shortly after taking office last year.
Morris’s ruling repeatedly faulted the Trump administration for reversing former President Obama’s 2015 denial of the pipeline permit without proper explanation. He said the State Department “simply discarded” climate change concerns related to the project.
The decision once again throws into doubt the future of the 1,179-mile Keystone XL, which for much of the decade since its proposal by TransCanada Corp. has been a lightning rod in national energy policy.
The Trump administration had tried to argue that federal courts didn’t even have the right to review Trump’s approval, saying that it extended from his constitutional authority over border crossings. The court rejected that argument.
In rejecting the permit, Morris relied mainly on arguing that State, the agency that analyzed the project, didn’t properly account for factors such as low oil prices, the cumulative impacts of greenhouse gases from Keystone and the Alberta Clipper pipeline and the risk of oil spills.
“The major spills that occurred between 2014 and 2017 qualify as significant. The department would have evaluated the spills in the 2014 [environmental review] had the information been available,” wrote Morris, whom Obama nominated to the court.