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Courts Rule On Keystone, DAPL

Construction Paused For Environmental Reviews

The U.S, Supreme Court issued a brief July 6 that rejected a request from the Trump administration to allow construction to proceed of parts of the Keystone XL oil pipeline that had been blocked by Montana Federal District Court Judge Brian M. Morris. The court’s brief said it would last while appeals moved forward.

The court also temporarily revived a permit program that would let other oil and gas pipelines cross waterways with limited oversight.

In April, Morris suspended the program, which is administered by the Army Corps of Engineers, saying that it had been improperly reauthorized in 2017. Morris ruled that the government violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to adequately consult with federal wildlife agencies.

Morris’ ruling interrupted TC Energy’s plans to build the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry crude oil from Canada to Nebraska, where it would then deliver to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. The planned route crosses approximately 20 miles of waterways.

In asking the Supreme Court to intervene, Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco said Morris’ decision would cause harm to the public and unreasonable delays.

TC Energy told the court that Morris’s decision would cost jobs.

The court’s brief means almost all Keystone XL construction is delayed until 2021.

“TC Energy would not be able to employ a majority of the approximately 1,500 unionized construction workers, and approximately 300 administrative, inspection and management personnel, it would otherwise employ for pipeline construction in 2020,” said TC Energy’s brief for the court. “The loss of so many high-paying jobs, along with the loss of the secondary employment and economic opportunities that construction activities would otherwise create in local communities, would be particularly harmful in the current distressed economy.”

Also on July 6, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled that the Dakota Access Pipeline must be emptied while the Army Corps of Engineers produces an environmental review.

DAPL is the largest pipeline running out of North Dakota’s Bakken shale basin and has been the source of intense protest from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and environmental groups. It has capacity to ship 570,000 barrels per day of crude to its endpoint in Illinois. Boasberg said that it was clear shutting down DAPL will cause disruption, but he said the corps’ deficiencies outweigh the negative effects of halting the oil flow during the estimated 13 months it will take to complete the environmental impact statement.

The court vacated the corps’ decision to grant federal approval for the project and will require the pipeline to be emptied within 30 days.

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