Indigenous and Environmental Groups Sue Federal Government on Keystone XL

By Yessenia Funes Mar 31, 2017

There are multiple lawsuits in reaction to the administration’s issuing of the presidential permit for the Keystone XL permit on March 24, with two separate ones being filed just this week.

The Indigenous Environmental Network and the North Coast Rivers Alliance first sued the federal government—more specifically, the State Department, the Fish and Wildlife Service and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke—on Monday (March 27) in the U.S. District Court of Montana.

Their suit claims that the federal approval of the presidential permit violates four principal environmental laws: the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Eagle Act. Plaintiffs are asking for an injunction until defendants can prove that the project is in compliance with these various environmental laws.

The lawsuit goes on to critique the department’s disinterest in renewable energy:

Here, the State Department entirely failed to consider the feasible and environmentally beneficial alternatives of adopting aggressive renewable energy and energy efficiency measures to obviate the claimed need for more crude oil. The EPA raised this objection in its comments on the Keystone XL [Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement] (DSEIS), and the [Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement] (FSEIS) fails to remedy the [Draft Environmental Impact Statement’s], FSEIS’, and DSEIS’ failure to analyze renewable energy and energy efficiency alternatives. Rather, after a cursory discussion, the FSEIS states that “use of alternative energy sources and energy conservation in meeting needs for transportation fuel have not been carried forward for further analysis as an alternative to the proposed Project.”

The second lawsuit was filed yesterday (March 30) in the same court on behalf of the Northern Plains Resource Council, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club and others. They, too, targeted the federal government.

Yesterday’s lawsuit more explicitly notes how the 1,178-mile long pipeline could impact streams, drinking water and further climate change. They also took issue with the pipeline’s Environmental Impact Statement, which they say is “woefully out of date” because it was issued in 2014. This suit is also calling for an injunction.

“President Trump is breaking established environmental laws and treaties in his efforts to force through the Keystone XL Pipeline, [which] would bring carbon-intensive, toxic and corrosive crude oil from the Canadian tar sands, but we are filing suit to fight back,” said Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, in a press release. “Indigenous peoples’ lands and waters are not here to be America’s environmental sacrifice zone.”

President Donald Trump carried through on his campaign promises to resurrect the controversial pipeline on January 24 when he signed a presidential memorandum calling on the Department of State to approve the necessary permit.