President Donald Trump has ignored a court order to conduct an environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline and instead simply issued a new presidential permit Friday allowing construction.
The permit authorizes energy company TransCanada Corp. to “construct, connect, operate, and maintain pipeline facilities at the international border” at Phillips County, Montana, “for the import of oil from Canada to the United States.”
The Keystone XL pipeline from Nebraska to Canada is part of a planned network to transport 830,000 gallons of crude oil daily between the Gulf coast and Alberta. It could still be blocked, however, by state environmental or other court challenges.
Trump is replacing a 2017 permit after pipeline construction was halted last year by Judge Brian Morris of the U.S. District Court in Montana. Attorney Stephan Volker, who represented environmentalists in the case, called Trump’s action illegal and a “direct assault on our system of governance.” He told The Associated Press that he would seek a court order blocking construction.
Morris faulted the Trump administration for ignoring Barack Obama’s denial of the permit in 2015. He ordered an environmental review to take into account such issues as oil spills and the oil-burning harms of greenhouse gas emissions. Morris said the State Department — which had approved the project — “simply discarded” climate change concerns.
Kieran Suckling, executive director for the Center for Biological Diversity — one of the plaintiffs in the Morris case — told HuffPost in a statement that “by personally approving the climate-killing Keystone XL pipeline, President Trump is showing complete contempt for the law and the idea of leaving a livable planet for future generations.”
Suckling vowed, “We’ll stop Trump’s latest unhinged assault on the environment in court once again.”
A White House spokesperson said in a statement that the new permit “reinforces, as should have been clear all along, that the presidential permit is indeed an exercise of presidential authority — that is not subject to judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act.”
A Sierra Club spokesman told Reuters that Trump was trying to bypass “bedrock” environmental laws for the benefit of a foreign pipeline company.
“We will continue to pursue every available avenue to ensure that this pipeline is never built,” said Michael Brune, the organization’s executive director.