SCOTUS Helps Pipelines, Except Keystone07/07 06:34
The U.S. Supreme Court handed another setback to the Keystone XL oil sands
pipeline from Canada on Monday by keeping in place a lower court ruling that
blocked a key environmental permit for the project. Monday's Supreme Court
order also put on hold an earlier court ruling out of Montana as it pertains to
other oil and gas pipelines across the nation.
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) -- The U.S. Supreme Court handed another setback to the
Keystone XL oil sands pipeline from Canada on Monday by keeping in place a
lower court ruling that blocked a key environmental permit for the project.
Canadian company TC Energy needs the permit to continue building the
long-disputed pipeline across U.S. rivers and streams. Without it, the project
that has been heavily promoted by President Donald Trump faces more delay just
as work on it had finally begun this year following years of courtroom battles.
Monday's Supreme Court order also put on hold an earlier court ruling out of
Montana as it pertains to other oil and gas pipelines across the nation.
That's a sliver of good news for an industry that just suffered two other
blows -- Sunday's cancellation of the $8 billion Atlantic Coast gas pipeline in
the Southeast and a Monday ruling that shut down the Dakota Access oil pipeline
in North Dakota.
In the Keystone case, an April ruling from U.S. District Judge Brian Morris
in Montana had threatened to delay not just Keystone but more than 70 pipeline
projects across the U.S., and add as much as $2 billion in costs, according to
Morris agreed with environmentalists who contended a U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers construction permit program was allowing companies to skirt
responsibility for damage done to water bodies.
But the Trump administration and industry attorneys argued the permit, in
place since the 1970s, was functioning properly when it was cancelled by Morris
over concerns about endangered species being harmed during pipeline
Monday's one-paragraph order did not provide any rationale for the high
The corps suspended the program following Morris' April ruling. Agency
officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
TC Energy spokesman Terry Cunha said the company is not giving up on
Keystone, but it will have to delay large portions of the 1,200-mile
(1,900-kilometer) oil sands pipeline. The company started construction last
week on a 329-mile (530-kilometer) section of the line in Alberta. That work
will continue while the company wages its court fight in the U.S., Cunha said.
An attorney for one of the environmental groups involved in the case called
Monday's order a major victory in the fight against Keystone. But he
acknowledged the plaintiffs had hoped to hamper oil and gas projects nationwide.
"Our focus was originally on Keystone, so we're very happy the court order
ensures it can't move forward under this unlawful permit," said Jared Margolis,
an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.
Pipeline industry representatives said the order means thousands of workers
whose jobs were threatened can continue working. A coalition of 18 states had
backed the Trump administration in the case.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said the Supreme Court's
action "ensures that one Montana district court judge doesn't possess the power
to drive national policy on such a critical issue."
The order returns the case to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for
Keystone was proposed in 2008 and would carry up to 830,000 barrels (35
million gallons) of crude daily to Nebraska, where it would be transferred to
another TC Energy pipeline for shipment to refineries and export terminals on
the Gulf of Mexico.
It was rejected twice under the Obama administration because of concerns
that it could worsen climate change. Trump revived it and has been an outspoken
proponent of the $8 billion project.
TC Energy's surprise March 31 announcement that it intended to start
construction amid a global economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic
came after the provincial government in Alberta invested $1.1 billion to
jump-start the work.
The company finished building the first piece of Keystone XL across the U.S.
border in late May and started work on labor camps in Montana and South Dakota.