A federal judge in Montana has blocked construction of the $8 billion Keystone XL Pipeline to allow more time to study the project's potential environmental impact. Trump signed an executive order two days into his presidency setting in motion a course reversal, saying the move showed how he would overcome environmental roadblocks to spur job and infrastructure development in the U.S.
In doing so the administration overturned a ruling by then president Barack Obama in 2015 that denied a permit for the pipeline, largely on environmental grounds, in particular the United States contribution to climate change.
The permit approval followed years of intense debate over the pipeline amid steadfast opposition from environmental groups.
Moss ruled that a 2014 environmental review the Trump administration relied on to approve the project failed to fully take into account greenhouse gas emissions and climate change effects from the pipeline oil, ignored potential Native American resources that could be affected by the pipeline, lacked updated information on the risk of oil spills and failed to consider the effect of the price of oil on the current viability of the pipeline.
The order stems from a lawsuit filed by the Indigenous Environmental Network and North Coast Rivers Alliance, which alleges that the State Department and TransCanada violated National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, the environmental law described in the order as "the basic national charter for protection of the environment".More news: Ariana Grande Stumbles, Laughs While Performing ‘Thank U, Next’ on ‘Ellen’
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The US$8-billion project would help carry 830,000 barrels of crude a day from Hardisty, about 200 kilometres east of Red Deer, to Steele City, Neb., where it could then move on to refineries in the central USA and Gulf Coast.
"An agency can not simply disregard contrary or inconvenient factual determinations that it made in the past", Judge Morris said in his ruling. The Trump administration can appeal to a higher court.
The US stretch of line that needs to be built would be 875 miles (1,450 km) long.
No immediate impact in oil markets is seen, as the pipeline isn't scheduled to come online for years regardless of the ruling.
"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", Mr Hayes added.