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Montana judge blocks construction of Keystone XL Pipeline

Photo By: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

11-13-2018

Julia Guerrein, Editor-in-Chief

One of President Trump’s first actions when he took office was to push forward the Keystone XL Pipeline, an action that President Obama had blocked during his time in office. Last week, a federal judge in Montana ruled that the administration failed to give a “reasoned explanation” for going forward with the construction and that the effect the pipeline would have on climate change was “simply discarded.”

“It was a political decision made by a judge,” Trump said Friday to reporters at the White House. “I think it’s a disgrace.”

This decision, made by Judge Brian Morris of the U.S. District Court for Montana, could throw the White House into a legal battle over climate change.

The pipeline, if constructed, would be 1,179 miles long and would transport 800,000 barrels of petroleum a day from Canada to the Gulf Coast, according to the New York Times. The battle over the pipeline is representative of the international fight over the balance between energy, the environment, and climate change, bringing into focus the rights of indigenous people as well.

Judge Morris does not stand alone in his ruling. Other judges around the country have made similar decisions regarding environmental issues and the Trump Administration. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), passed in 1970, dictates that all executive federal agencies do an environmental assessment (EA) and an environmental impact study (EIS), although this does not apply to the President, Congress, or the Federal Courts. Since the pipeline is under an executive federal agency, EAs and EISs were done and used to justify the Obama Administration’s halt of construction.

Basically, the Trump Administration does not have the proper evidence to move forward with construction.

“This has been typical of the Trump administration,” said Mark Squillance, an expert on environmental law at the University of Colorado Law School, according to the New York Times. “They haven’t done a good job dealing with the factual findings of the previous administration. The courts have been clear that you can change your position, even if it’s for a political reason. But you have to show your work, how you got from Point A to Point B.”

Experts have commented that Judge Morris’ decision could very well be reversed if the administration of TransCanada, the company building the pipeline, have a proper well-researched argument.

Judge Morris’ decision also prods at Trump’s continual dismissal of mainstream science, which can be seen clearly in the administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. The administration is also being sued by a group of children for inaction on climate change, and, therefore, the effects that gases released now will have on the lives of people after older politicians are long gone.

Even though parts of the pipeline have already been constructed and the Judge Morris’ decision could be overturned, environmental groups see the decision as a victory.

“Keystone XL would be a disaster for the climate and for the people and wildlife of this country,” said Jackie Prague, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, in a statement on Thursday.

The oil industry counters this, citing the need for energy. “Pipelines like KXL are the backbone of our nation’s energy infrastructure and one of the most environmentally sound ways to transport the fuel and petroleum products that power America,” Robin Rorick, vice president of midstream operations for the American Petroleum Industry, said, reported the New York Times.

Judge Morris’ decision brings to light the Trump administration’s opinion on whether or not they see addressing rising global temperatures as their responsibility. So far, the administration has renounced any responsibility, but they may not legally be able to claim that. Only time will tell what the outcome of this ongoing battle is.