U.S. District Judge Brian Morris Thursday froze construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would link Canada to the Gulf of Mexico and carry up to 830,000 barrels a day (the U.S. produced 11.3 million barrels per day in August 2018). Morris wrote that the present administration’s permit ignored previous factual findings on climate change and lacked sufficient environmental impact analysis.
The $8 billion pipeline proposed by Calgary-based energy firm Transcanada has been the root of a years-long battle. On one side, environmentalists argue that it represents a harmful extension of the country’s dependence on fossil fuels and threatens the delicate ecological balance of Native American lands. On the other, oil companies believe it enables them to more easily sell land-locked oil reserves from Canada and northern U.S. states into the international market.
Former U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration rejected the construction permit application in 2015 while taking a swipe at both sides over their grandstanding: “It has become a symbol too often used as a campaign cudgel by both parties rather than a serious policy matter,” said President Obama in Nov. 2015. “All of this obscured the fact that this pipeline would neither be a silver bullet for the economy, as was promised by some, nor the express lane to climate disaster proclaimed by others.”
This approach altered with the arrival of the Trump administration, which issued a construction permit. A year ago, TransCanada also cleared the last state-level hurdle for a possible alternative path through Nebraska.
Following the ruling. the U.S. State Department – involved because of the international aspect of the project – must now supplement its 2014 environmental impact statement with a new one that meets the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedure Act, Morris ruled.