Wednesday, August 12, 2020

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Supreme Court deals major blow to Keystone XL project

The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a permit program run by the Army Corps of Engineers allowing expedited environmental impact rulings on pipelines crossing waterways was valid. What is different about this ruling however is that the Keystone XL Pipeline was specifically excluded from the decision.

What the Court did specifically was to issue a brief unsigned order which rejected a request from the Trump administration to allow construction to continue on parts of the KXL pipeline that Federal Judge Brian Morris in Montana had blocked in April. That ruling also put a stop to a permit program allowing only modest scrutiny to be given for pipelines crossing various waterways. That decision halted a number of pipelines in construction. 

This suit was brought about by a number of environmental groups challenging the permit program, saying it violated the Clean Water Act and posed a danger to numerous endangered species. Judge Morris, in his decision on the case, wrote that the government had violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to adequately consult with federal wildlife agencies. 

In May, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco refused to stay the ruling while appeals in the case moved forward. The Solicitor General Noel Francisco, in his request for the Supreme Court to intervene, said that Judge Morris’s decision “causes direct irreparable injury to the interests of the government and the public.” 

TC Energy added in its brief to the Supreme Court that the judge’s decision would cost jobs unless they intervened.

This current ruling by the Supreme Court has opened the way for numerous other pipeline projects to apply for a Nationwide Permit 12 to allow for fast tracked approval by the Army Corps of Engineers. This decision indicated that Judge Morris’s decision to halt the permit program was too broad. However, by specifically excluding the Keystone XL from this decision, the court dealt another blow to the President in terms of his support of various oil and gas pipelines. 

His authorization of the Keystone XL pipeline under the Missouri River in 2017 occurred shortly after he took office.

This is the third major anti-pipeline decision in a week.

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