By Tom Korosec and Edvard Pettersson
Native American tribes cleared a hurdle in their lawsuit to block the Trump administration’s permit for the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada.
A federal judge in Montana on Friday rejected the Trump administration’s request to throw out the lawsuit. The tribes claim that a permit issued in March by the president to TC Energy Corp. would allow the pipeline to disturb cultural sites and water supplies in violation of tribal law and treaties.
“The tribes have pled a plausible claim that the president exceeded his constitutional authority and usurped congress’s authority to regulate foreign commerce when he issued the 2019 permit,” U.S. District Judge Brian Morris said in his decision.
The judge denied a request to block preliminary work on the pipeline, however. No work is planned until next year.
The $8 billion pipeline would carry 830,000 barrels of crude a day on a 1,200-mile (1,931-kilometer) route from Alberta’s oil sands to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. It has been buffeted by various legal and regulatory challenges for a decade.
The project, which critics say would add to greenhouse gas emissions and hasten climate change, was rejected in 2015 by President Barack Obama on environmental grounds. On his fourth day in office, President Donald Trump invited TC Energy to reapply for a presidential permit.
In 2018, Morris ruled that a 2014 environmental impact statement fell short of the National Environmental Policy Act and other regulatory standards. That ruling barred TC Energy and the U.S. from any construction activity until the U.S. State Department completed a supplemental review.
The administration was appealing that decision in March when Trump revoked an earlier cross-border permit and issued a new one, effectively circumventing Morris’s ruling.
The cases are Rosebud Sioux Tribe v. Trump, 18-cv-118, and Indigenous Environmental Network v. Trump, 19-cv-00028, U.S. District Court, District of Montana (Great Falls).