Montana group, others challenge effort to dismiss Keystone XL lawsuit

A depot used to store pipes for Transcanada Corp’s planned Keystone XL oil pipeline is seen in Gascoyne, North Dakota, January 25, 2017. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

Several environmental groups this week responded to a push by the Trump administration and TransCanada to dismiss a lawsuit against the administration over its approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

The original lawsuit was filed in March by Northern Plains Resource Council, the Sierra Club and Bold Alliance, along with the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

In their lawsuit, the groups challenged the State Department’s “inadequate and outdated” environmental review of the pipeline, which they argue relied solely on an environmental impact statement from January 2014.

“When it comes to the Keystone XL pipeline, the Trump administration must obey the law like all the rest of American citizens,” said said Dena Hoff, a Glendive-area farmer and spokesperson for Northern Plains Resource Council.

Hoff believes that federal officials are trying to circumvent the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires review of projects that would have ‘significant’ environmental impacts.

The lawsuit would hold the administration and the Bureau of Land Management accountable through judicial review, Hoff said.

“The administration and TransCanada are using old data which doesn’t take into account the crash in oil prices, the effects of tar sands mining on the climate, water quality, public health, forests and wildlife,” said Hoff. “Trump, the State Department and the BLM cannot ignore NEPA.

In its motion to dismiss, the Trump administration claimed that the approval of the pipeline cannot be reviewed under the National Environmental Policy Act – an environmental law that requires government actions be reviewed based on their environmental impacts.

TransCanada also has filed a similar motion to dismiss.

“It’s disturbing that the Trump administration believes it’s above the law and is not required to comply with basic environmental laws that exist to protect the American people” said Sierra Club Staff Attorney Doug Hayes.

“Keystone XL would be a disaster for the climate and for communities, wildlife, and water resources along its route. The court should not allow Donald Trump to flout the law and ignore these consequences for the benefit of a foreign oil company.”