A year and a half after President Donald Trump reversed an Obama administration decision to block TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, a federal district judge in Montana has halted the project again, citing an insufficient review of the project's environmental impact.
In his ruling, Judge Brian Morris said “the Trump administration completely disregarded the climate effects of building the Keystone pipeline,” according to Vermont law professor Pat Parenteau.
“The Trump administration dismissed, with barely a paragraph in the decision document they issued, the whole idea that the pipeline would be contributing to climate change, and the judge said that's not good enough,” Parenteau said. “[He said], ‘You really do have to take into account the growing body of science that we all know and you have to explain why it makes sense, given that, to authorize yet another major piece of fossil fuel infrastructure that will take 40 years to pay off.’”
Morris is a former justice on the Montana Supreme Court and is considered a “very moderate judge,” Parenteau adds. “He’s hardly a radical environmentalist. There are some judges on the federal bench who are more pro-environment ..., but Judge Morris isn’t in that same category.”
The oil market has changed drastically since TransCanada first proposed Keystone XL, so, in some respects, Parenteau notes, the ruling could provide the company with a reason to put off the project or cancel it completely.
“If it's true that the market for this oil has gotten really weak, you kind of wonder if maybe they aren't doing TransCanada a favor by giving them a chance to rethink whether it makes sense to continue with this, at least at this point in time,” Parenteau said. “It’s interesting that we haven't heard a huge outcry yet.”
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