Federal Judge Denies TransCanada, Government Motion to Dismiss Keystone Lawsuit, November 22, 2017
Great Falls, MT—Today, Judge Brian Morris of Great Falls ruled that a federal lawsuit brought by conservation and landowner groups over the Trump Administration’s approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline could proceed. Morris’s decision rejected a motion made by the State Department and TransCanada to dismiss the case.
In March, six groups, including Northern Plains Resource Council, filed Northern Plains Resource Council et al. v. Shannon et al., alleging the Trump Administration had violated federal law in approving the Keystone Pipeline. The lawsuit holds the Trump administration justified its approval of the Keystone XL pipeline using outdated and incomplete information that underestimates the project’s threat to the health of water, land, and communities the pipeline would cross.
“Our concerns about the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline were validated today. Judge Morris ruled against TransCanada’s and the Government’s motion to dismiss our case. We continue our commitment to stop this pipeline once and for all, to protect Montana’s land, water, and people,” said Dena Hoff, a Glendive farmer and spokesperson for Northern Plains Resource Council. Hoff’s farm was impacted by the 2015 Bridger Pipeline oil spill and lies downstream of where Keystone XL would cross the Yellowstone River.
The Trump Administration and TransCanada had argued the case should be thrown out for various reasons: that Trump’s issuance of a Presidential Permit to the pipeline constituted a presidential action and was therefore not subject to legal review, that litigating groups did not have standing to sue, and that issues brought up in the lawsuit were not yet ripe for judicial review.
Judge Morris ruled the President’s compliance with federal law like the National Environmental Policy Act was not, as the Administration alleged in this instance, a policy choice or ‘act of grace,’ and that therefore the suit over the pipeline’s legal merits could proceed. Morris’s ruling also applies to a separate lawsuit filed by the Indigenous Environmental Network and North Coast Rivers Alliance.
“When it comes to the Keystone XL pipeline, President Trump must obey the law like every other American,” said Becky Mitchell, Chair of Northern Plains Resource Council. “Keystone XL is major threat to our land, water, and communities – especially our family farmers and ranchers on the path of the Keystone XL pipeline who would bear the burden of this project.”
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