Federal judge halts Keystone XL pipeline construction

Indigenous and climate protesters have long been opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline

TransCanada's Keystone XL oil pipeline suffers another setback as a federal judge in Montana has issued an order blocking its construction, which was previously approved by the US State Department, media reported.

Morris previously ruled against the State Department in August, saying it was obligated to "analyze new information relevant to the environmental impacts of its decision".

TransCanada had recently announced plans to start construction next year, after a State Department review ordered by Morris concluded that major environmental damage from a leak is unlikely and could quickly be mitigated.

"We keep killing it, and it keeps coming back from the dead", Dallas Goldtooth from the Keep It In The Ground campaign for the Indigenous Environmental Network said, as cited by CBC News.

The privately financed pipeline is projected to stretch 1,179-miles (1,897km) from the oil sands of Canada's Alberta province, through Montana and South Dakota, to rejoin an existing pipeline to Texas.

The ruling also blamed President Donald Trump's administration, several times, for failing to explain why it had reversed a previous decision made by the Obama administration that cited climate change as a reason for rejecting the project, The Hill reported on November 8.

Then came policy shifts in the Trump administration.

US President Donald Trump had granted a permit for the pipeline.

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"The Trump administration tried to force this dirty pipeline project on the American people, but they can't ignore the threats it would pose to our clean water, our climate, and our communities", Hayes said.

The administration can appeal against the decision.

The massive project remains one of the most controversial infrastructure proposals in modern American history.

What is the Keystone XL Pipeline? In the USA, the pipeline would stretch 875 miles through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, with the rest continuing into Canada.

Shawnee Rae, age 8, among a group of Native American activists from the Sisseton-Wahpeton tribe protesting the Keystone XL Pipeline in Watertown, S.D.in 2015. The U.S. Obama said, was now a "global leader when it comes to taking serious action to fight climate change".

Morris said, however, that there have indeed been changes since the 2014 assessment and that the Trump administration failed to consider them.

"The department's 2017 conclusory analysis that climate-related impacts from Keystone subsequently would prove inconsequential and its corresponding reliance on this conclusion as a centerpiece of its policy change required the department to provide a 'reasoned explanation, '" Judge Morris said. He ordered the department to complete a full review.

Judge Brian Morris cited a finding in a previous case that "an agency cannot simply disregard contrary or inconvenient factual determinations that it made in the past, anymore than it can ignore inconvenient facts when it writes on a blank slate".

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