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It’s been a while since we checked in on our old friend and conservative fetish object, the Keystone XL pipeline, the continent-spanning death funnel designed to bring the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel from the environmental dead zone of northern Alberta to the shores of the Gulf of Mexico and thence to the world. The people fighting the pipeline lost every friend they had in the executive branch in Washington with the election of El Caudillo Del Mar-A-Lago and his installation of oil magnate Rex Tillerson at the State Department. Upon assuming office, the president* quickly signed off on the pipeline, something he brags about constantly on the stump. But, there are still the federal courts and, on Thursday night, while everybody was looking elsewhere, the story took yet another turn. From CNN:
US District Judge Brian Morris found that the US government’s use of a 2014 environmental review to justify issuing a presidential permit for construction of the cross-border pipeline violated the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Administrative Procedure Act, according to the court order issued Thursday. “The Court enjoins Federal Defendants and TransCanada from engaging in any activity in furtherance of the construction or operation of Keystone and associated facilities,” the court document reads, “until the Department has completed a supplement to the 2014 SEIS (Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement) that complies with the requirements of NEPA and the APA.”
Central to the success of the plaintiffs in this case was the fact that pipelines leak, and that pipelines built by TransCanada, the foreign energy behemoth peddling the project, seem to leak unusually well. The court found that, in its haste to approve the project, the administration* took none of this into account. From The New York Times:
Judge Morris found that in reviving Keystone, the Trump administration did not adequately account for how a decline in oil prices might affect the pipeline’s viability. In addition, the government’s analysis did not fully study the potential for oil spills or the cumulative effects of greenhouse gas emissions from the Keystone pipeline in combination with a pipeline approved in 2009, the Alberta Clipper. The ruling specifically takes the Trump administration to task for failing to address the Obama administration’s arguments about climate change, including the need to keep rising global temperatures at safe levels as a basis for denying the pipeline permit.
In his ruling, Judge Morris made it plain that he was taking no MAGA guff, either.
The judge said an administration had the right to reverse a previous policy, but still must back up its reason for doing so with facts. The Trump administration did not do that, Judge Morris found. “The Department instead simply discarded prior factual findings related to climate change to support its course reversal,” he wrote. He cited a United States Supreme Court ruling that noted, “An agency cannot simply disregard contrary or inconvenient factual determinations that it made in the past, any more than it can ignore inconvenient facts when it writes on a blank slate.”
Oh, just watch them try, though. It’s the one thing they’re very good at.
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