Judge Brian Morris blocks Keystone pipeline

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A USA district judge has issued an order blocking construction of the controversial transnational Keystone XL Pipeline until the State Department conducts further study of its impact on the environment.

The US state department "simply discarded" its previous analysis of the pipeline's climate change impact by approving it shortly after Donald Trump's presidency began, wrote Brian Morris, US district court judge in Montana.

The court blocked any activity furthering the construction or operation until the U.S. State Department completes a supplement to a 2014 environmental impact statement that complies with the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.

In a 54-page order issued late Thursday, Judge Morris alleges the US Department of State committed multiple violations when it approved the construction of the $8 billion, 1,900-kilometer pipeline in 2017.

Trump claimed there would be "great construction jobs" stemming from Keystone XL, which involves the building of a 1,200 mile pipeline across six U.S. states in order to bring crude oil from Alberta in Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

In doing so the administration overturned a ruling by then president Barack Obama in 2015 that denied a permit for the pipeline, largely on environmental grounds, in particular the U.S. contribution to climate change.

He said the decision also fell short in other areas, including the impact on Native American lands, and did not take into proper consideration issues like oil spills and low prices.

The Trump administration can appeal to a higher court.

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US President Donald Trump had granted a permit for the pipeline.

The administration is appealing numerous rulings and may appeal Thursday's decision as well. It has become one of the most controversial oil projects in North America, but it is also one of the most important for Canadian crude oil producers hit by a significant pipeline capacity shortage.

What is the Keystone XL Pipeline?

The US stretch of line that needs to be built would be 875 miles (1,450 km) long.

The pipeline construction sparked months of protests by Native Americans and activist groups, who say the project could pollute local water supplies.

Morris said, however, that there have indeed been changes since the 2014 assessment and that the Trump administration failed to consider them. New tar sands pipeline projects threaten Indigenous rights, put drinking water and communities at risk, accelerate the climate crisis and move us in the wrong direction.

- The department "acted on incomplete information regarding" the potential damage to cultural resources in Indian territory along the route.

"An agency cannot simply disregard contrary or inconvenient factual determinations that it made in the past, any more than it can ignore inconvenient facts when it writes on a blank slate", Morris wrote. "It's not over for us, we're just going to keep on going ahead".