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PRESS RELEASE: Conservation groups appeal rushed decision regarding Keystone XL waterway crossings in Montana

DEQ refused to evaluate full scope of project and admits failure to meaningfully review public comments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 5, 2021

HELENA, Mont. –  Today, the Northern Plains Resource Council and the Sierra Club appealed the Montana Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) issuance of a water quality certification for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The state level certification is required under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can grant permits for Canadian energy corporation TC Energy to build the pipeline through rivers, streams, and wetlands in Montana. 

The DEQ failed to properly examine whether the project would meet state water quality standards and was based on a narrow and incomplete review of the project and its impacts. DEQ refused to consider reasonable alternatives to the project, including differing routes and less disruptive construction methods; did not consider the cumulative impacts of the project as a whole including the construction of pump stations and access roads; and failed to consider the risks of potential oil spills despite a history of several large spills totalling at least 800,000 gallons on the existing Keystone pipeline system. 

In a press release announcing their decision, DEQ admitted its failure to “meaningfully review” the more than 650 public comments detailing concerns about the project. The release includes a statement from outgoing DEQ Director Shaun McGrath indicating a rushed approval of the certification due to an inadequate timeline for completion imposed by the Army Corps of Engineers. 

The appeal triggers an automatic stay of the certification while the  decision is reviewed by the Board of Environmental Review.

“The Keystone XL pipeline remains a threat to clean water for Montana’s farmers, ranchers, and tribal communities,” said Dena Hoff, a Glendive farmer and Northern Plains member. “DEQ should have denied this permit instead of allowing the Army Corps to pressure it into a rushed decision without reviewing the hundreds of comments submitted by concerned Montanans across the state.” 

“DEQ’s issuance of the 401 certification is another reckless, rushed attempt to drag more tar sands through Montana communities while shutting Montanans out of the process,” said Sierra Club Montana Chapter Director Summer Nelson. “No one likes being asked for their opinion and seeing it promptly cast aside, but in this case, considering the threat Keystone XL poses to Montana’s wildlife, clean water, and climate, it is unconscionable — and illegal.”