SCOTUS Jeopardizes Completion of Keystone XL Pipeline

By Ayana Byrd Jul 07, 2020

On the same day that a federal judge ordered that the Dakota Access Pipeline be emptied, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) dealt a blow to the Keystone XL pipeline. The New York Times reports that the ruling came down without any noted dissents. It continues:

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a request from the Trump administration to allow construction of parts of the Keystone XL oil pipeline that had been blocked by a federal judge in Montana. But the court temporarily revived a permit program that would let other oil and gas pipelines cross waterways after only modest scrutiny from regulators.

The program allows for fast-track permitting for pipelines and is strongly opposed by environmentalists, who say it endangers wildlife. It is overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and was reauthorized under the Trump administration in 2017. According to CNN, “A federal judge in May sided with environmental groups, requiring that new oil and gas pipelines must undergo a lengthy permitting and regulation process in order to build across bodies of water.”

The new SCOTUS decision overturns the lower court ruling for many pipelines, making it a partial win for the Trump administration. However, it excluded Keystone XL, which must now go through the lengthy process. If that pipeline’s permit process is not completed by the 2020 election, it faces an uncertain future. CNN reports, “Democrat Joe Biden has pledged to rescind the permit for Keystone if he wins.”

The Keystone XL pipeline is planned to run 1179 miles with the purpose of connecting Canada’s tar sands crude oil with refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. It is owned by TransCanada, the same company whose Keystone pipeline spilled 210,000 gallons of oil in a field in South Dakota in November 2017. It would run from Alberta, Canada, through Nebraska. As Colorlines previously reported:

There has been opposition to the pipeline since its inception. Activists argue it would damage the climate via oil extraction, destroying trees and energy consumption that would increase greenhouse gas emissions. The pipeline is also a threat to Indigenous groups. In September, two Native American communities, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and Fort Belknap Indian Communitysued the Trump administration for not adhering to historical treaty boundaries. In addition, the pipeline’s route could damage water systems and sacred Indigenous lands, environmentalists assert.

In 2014, President Barack Obama denied the pipeline’s permit based on the findings of an environmental impact statement. But on his second day in office, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that allowed its construction.

This is the third pipeline decision in two days that favor environmentalists and Indigenous communities. On Sunday (July 5), Dominion Energy and Duke Energy announced that they would halt construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The next day, the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) was ordered emptied by a federal court.