Trump issues new permit for ‘climate-killing’ Keystone XL pipeline in attempt to sidestep court ruling

Environmental groups says project 'was a bad idea from day one and it remains a terrible idea'

Josh Gabbatiss
Science Correspondent
Saturday 30 March 2019 22:08
The Keystone XL pipeline has been met with fierce resistance from environmentalists
The Keystone XL pipeline has been met with fierce resistance from environmentalists

Donald Trump has issued a new permit for a controversial oil pipeline that critics say will devastate local communities and prove disastrous for the environment.

The move comes in spite of a federal judge blocking the Keystone XL project in November, saying the government had not fully considered oil spills and other impacts, and must conduct another review.

The president said the new permit replaced the previous one granted two years ago, with a spokesman explaining that it “dispels any uncertainty” about the project.

It is intended to speed up the development of the pipeline, which is designed to transport crude oil from tar sands in western Canada to the US Gulf Coast.

“Specifically, this 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,” said the White House spokesman.

But Stephan Volker, a lawyer for environmentalists who sued to stop the project, called Mr Trump’s action illegal, and vowed to seek a court order blocking project developer TransCanada from moving forward with construction.

“President Trump has launched a direct assault on our system of governance,” said Mr Volker.

Calgary-based TransCanada said in a statement that Trump’s order “clarifies the national importance of Keystone XL and aims to bring more than 10 years of environmental review to closure.”

Mr Trump “has been clear that he wants to create jobs and advance US energy security, and the Keystone XL pipeline does both of those things,” said Russ Girling, TransCanada’s president and CEO.

Keystone XL will create thousands of jobs and deliver crude oil to US refineries “in the safest, most efficient and environmentally sound way,” the company said.

An appeal filed by the company, which says Keystone XL has been studied more than any other pipeline in history, is pending.

The US Chamber of Commerce welcomed the action, and said “review after review” had found the project could be environmentally responsible.

But Anthony Swift, director of the Canada project for the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, said the pipeline “was a bad idea from day one and it remains a terrible idea”.

“If built, it would threaten our land, our drinking water, and our communities from Montana and Nebraska to the Gulf Coast. And it would drive dangerous climate change,” he said.

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Keystone XL, first proposed in 2008 under President George W Bush, would begin in Alberta and go to Nebraska, where it would join with an existing pipeline to shuttle more than 800,000 barrels a day of crude to terminals on the Gulf Coast.

After years of study and delay, former President Barack Obama rejected the project in 2015, but Mr Trump reversed that decision soon after taking office in 2017. A presidential permit is needed because the project crosses a US border.

Environmental groups vowed they would continue fighting the president’s decision.

“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,” said Kieran Suckling, executive director for the Center for Biological Diversity.

“We’ll stop Trump’s latest unhinged assault on the environment in court once again.”

Additional reporting by AP

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