In a major victory for the planet and blow to the Trump administration's efforts to ramp up fossil fuel extraction and production in the face of grave climate consequences, a federal judge on Thursday halted all construction of TransCanada's 1,200-mile long Keystone XL pipeline and tossed out the White House's fact-free approval of the project.
The Great Falls Tribune reports U.S. District Judge Brian Morris' order on Thursday came as the Calgary-based energy giant was preparing to build the first stages of the oil pipeline in northern Montana.
However, President Donald Trump reversed the decision shortly after taking office, saying it would bring thousands of jobs.
But the Trump administration dismissed environmental objections as roadblocks and claimed that there were "numerous developments related to global action to address climate change" in the years since Obama-era rejection of the project.
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.
Then came policy shifts in the Trump administration.
"Today's ruling makes it clear once and for all that it's time for TransCanada to give up on their Keystone XL pipe dream", Sierra Club senior attorney Doug Hayes said.
Delays also may send TransCanada back to oil producers or Canada's government for assurances that the trouble of trying to push ahead with the pipeline will be worthwhile, according to Royal Bank of Canada's Robert Kwan.
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In August, Judge Morris ruled that the State Department must supplement a more thorough study of potential environmental effects of the pipeline.
Morris was appointed by President Barack Obama.
Trump claimed there would be "great construction jobs" stemming from Keystone XL, which involves the building of a 1,200 mile pipeline across six USA states in order to bring crude oil from Alberta in Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast.
The massive project remains one of the most controversial infrastructure proposals in modern American history.
But it has been the subject of protests for more than a decade, both from environmentalists and Native American groups, who say it will cut through their sovereign lands. "As the court has made clear yet again, the Trump administration's flawed and risky proposal should be shelved forever". Construction of the USA leg had been scheduled to begin next year.
"And frankly, approving this project would have undercut that global leadership", he said, adding that the "biggest risk" the USA faced was "not acting".
The reversal required a "reasoned explanation" but instead the State Department discarded prior "factual findings", he said. "That's why we keep winning in the court".