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Keystone Right Of Way Approved

Trump Administration Signs Off On Montana Route

On Wednesday, Jan. 22, the Trump administration approved a right-of-way allowing the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline to be built, pushing the controversial $8 billion project closer to construction. Court challenges still loom.

The approval covers about 45 miles of the line’s route across land in Montana controlled by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said Casey Hammond, assistant secretary of the Interior Department.

The 1,200-mile pipeline would transport up to 830,000 barrels (35 million gallons) of crude oil daily from western Canada to terminals on the Gulf Coast. Project sponsor TC Energy has said it wants to begin construction of the long-delayed line this year, but that it is sure to face more legal challenges.

The 46-mile stretch includes all federal land crossed by the line, Hammond said. Much of the rest of the route is across private land for which TC Energy has been assembling permission to build on.

Opponents worry burning the tar sands oil will make climate change worse and that it could break and spill into waterways like Montana’s Missouri River.

TC Energy of Canada first proposed the project more than a decade ago but has been unable to get past numerous lawsuits. President Donald Trump has been a strong supporter and revived Keystone XL after the Obama administration was rejected.

Hammond said Interior officials and other agencies have done a thorough review of the line’s potential effects on the environment. He said TC Energy had provided detailed plans to respond to any spill from the line.

“We’re comfortable with the analysis that’s been done,” Hammond said.

He said Interior Secretary David Bernhardt signed the approval.

An attorney for environmental groups that have sued to overturn Trump’s permit for the line said they will ask the judge in the case to issue an order blocking Wednesday’s approval.

“We know President Trump’s permit was unconstitutional, and we have every confidence that the federal courts will set aside these approvals,” said Steve Volker, who represents the Indigenous Environmental Network.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris in Montana initially denied a request from environmentalists to block construction in December because no work was immediately planned. But he also has ruled against the project, including a 2018 decision that stalled the line and prompted Trump to issue a new presidential permit for Keystone XL to cross the U.S.-Canada border.

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