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On July 10th, environmental groups opposed an attempt by the Trump administration and Canadian oil giant TransCanada to dismiss a lawsuit against the administration for illegally approving a cross-border permit for the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
The lawsuit was filed in March by the Northern Plains Resource Council, Bold Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club. It challenged the State Department’s inadequate and outdated environmental review of the pipeline, which relied on an old environmental impact statement from January 2014 and failed to consider key information on the project’s impacts.
In its June 9th motion to dismiss, the State Department argued that it is not required to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), one of our bedrock environmental laws which requires that government actions be reviewed based on their environmental impacts. TransCanada filed a similar motion days later on June 16th.
“It is disturbing that this administration believes it is above the law and is not required to comply with basic environmental laws that exist to protect the American people” said Sierra Club Staff Attorney Doug Hayes. “Keystone XL would be a disaster for the climate and for communities, wildlife, and water resources along its route. The court should not allow federal agencies to flout the law and ignore these consequences for the benefit of a foreign oil company.”
“When it comes to the Keystone XL pipeline, the Trump administration must obey the law like all the rest of American citizens. Federal officials are trying to circumvent the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires review of projects that would have ‘significant’ environmental impacts,” said Dena Hoff, a Glendive-area farmer and spokesperson for Northern Plains Resource Council, a conservation and family agriculture group in Billings, Montana. “They and TransCanada are using old data which do not take into account the crash in oil prices, the effects of tar sands mining on the climate, water quality, public health, and wildlife. Trump, the State Department, and Bureau of Land Management cannot ignore NEPA. This lawsuit would hold them accountable through judicial review. As Montanans, we have an acute understanding of the importance of water. We depend on our rivers and groundwater for drinking, for irrigation, and for our biggest economies – agriculture and recreation tourism. A threat to our water is a threat to our most basic needs. NEPA would review the effects Keystone XL will have on our water and land from oil spills and leaks.”
“The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline has always been a bad deal for America and the people of the planet,” said Ken Winston, attorney for the Bold Alliance. “New evidence of the threat to the endangered whooping cranes, along with the threats to water and property rights, provide even stronger evidence that Keystone XL is a bad deal.”
“Federal agencies cannot ignore bedrock environmental laws like the National Environmental Policy Act as a payoff to polluters,” said Anthony Swift, Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Canada Project. “Any credible review of the Keystone XL would show that piping some of the dirtiest oil on the planet through America’s heartland would put at grave risk our land, water and climate.”