US judge cancels permit for Keystone XL pipeline from Canada

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This March 11, 2020 photo provided by the Bureau of Land Management shows the proposed route of the Keystone XL oil pipeline where it crosses into the U.S. from Canada in Phillips County, Mont. A Canadian company said Monday, April 6, 2020, that it's started construction on the long-stalled Keystone XL oil sands pipeline across the U.S.-Canada border, despite calls from tribal leaders and environmentalists to delay the $8 billion project amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Al Nash/Bureau of Land Management via AP)

BILLINGS, Mont. – A U.S. judge canceled a key permit Wednesday for the Keystone XL oil pipeline that’s expected to stretch from Canada to Nebraska, another setback for the disputed project that got underway less than two weeks ago following years of delays.

Judge Brian Morris said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to adequately consider effects on endangered species such as pallid sturgeon, a massive, dinosaur-like fish that lives in rivers the pipeline would cross.

The ruling, however, does not shut down work that has begun at the U.S.-Canada border crossing in Montana, according to attorneys in the case. Pipeline sponsor TC Energy will need the permit for future construction across hundreds of rivers and streams along Keystone's 1,200-mile (1,930-kilometer) route.

“It creates another significant hurdle for the project," said Anthony Swift with the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the groups that challenged the permit.

“Regardless of whether they have the cross border segment ... Keystone XL has basically lost all of its Clean Water Act permits for water crossings," he said.

TC Energy was reviewing the ruling but remained “committed to building this important energy infrastructure project," spokesman Terry Cunha said.

Officials with the Army Corps of Engineers did not have an immediate response to the ruling.

The Keystone authorization came under a so-called nationwide permit issued by the Corps in 2017, essentially giving blanket approval to pipeline or similar utility projects with minimal effects on waterways.