Administration Loses Bid for More Pipelines

Case springs from environmentalists' effort against Keystone XL
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 28, 2020 6:45 PM CDT

(Newser) – A federal appeals court on Thursday turned down the Trump administration's request to revive a permit program for new oil and gas pipelines, an outcome that industry representatives said could delay more than 70 projects across the US and cost companies up to $2 billion. The case originated with a challenge by environmentalists to the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline from the oil sands region of Canada to the US. It's now affecting oil and gas pipeline proposals across the nation, the AP reports. The Army Corps of Engineers permitting program allows pipelines to be built across streams and wetlands with minimal review if they meet certain criteria. Environmental groups contend the program, Nationwide Permit 12, leaves companies unaccountable for damage to water bodies during construction. "This is huge," said Jared Margolis of the Center for Biological Diversity. "Hopefully this gives us a chance to put a pause on these major oil pipelines."

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The government argued cancellation would delay construction of pipelines to deliver fuel to power plants and other destinations. US District Judge Brian Morris in Montana said in recent Keystone case rulings that Army Corps officials failed to adequately consult wildlife agencies before reauthorizing the permitting program in 2017. Its continued use could cause serious harm to protected species and critical wildlife habitat, he said. A two-judge panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals denied an emergency request to block Morris' ruling. The issue could take months to resolve, barring court intervention. Without a nationwide permit, companies will have to apply for individual construction permits on lines that sometimes cross hundreds of water bodies. "It is completely inappropriate that the district court has singled out natural gas and oil companies to cut out of a long-established regulatory process," said the chief legal officer for the American Petroleum Institute.

(Read more TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline stories.)

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