U.S. judge rejects Trump's bid to dismiss lawsuit over Keystone XL pipeline approval
However, Indigenous groups were denied a request for a preliminary injunction
A U.S. federal judge rejected motions filed by Calgary-based TC Energy and U.S. President Donald Trump's administration to dismiss a lawsuit which aims to block the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.
On Friday, Montana Federal District Judge Brian Morris rejected the motion, stating that Indigenous and environmental groups against the $8 billion US project have made credible claims that should proceed to a merit hearing.
The Indigenous groups claim Trump violated the law when he approved the pipeline, and that the pipeline would have negative impacts on the environment and traditional, cultural sites.
Former U.S President Barack Obama's administration rejected the project in 2015 because of concerns about carbon pollution, but Trump reversed that decision in March 2017.
A 2018 ruling by Morris found the project's environmental impact statement fell short of regulatory standards, so in 2019 Trump reissued a presidential permit in a bid to circumvent that court ruling against the project.
However in this latest ruling, Morris denied the groups' request for a preliminary injunction, stating that TC Energy has voluntarily agreed to stop pre-construction activities until the second quarter of next year.
If TC Energy's future activities interfere with the status quo, the judge wrote, the request for a preliminary injunction to stop that work can be renewed.
The 1,897-kilometre pipeline, first announced in 2005, would carry 830,000 barrels of crude a day from Hardisty, Alta., to Nebraska. It would then connect with the original Keystone that runs to Gulf Coast refineries.
The original Keystone recently reopened after a 9,120 barrels of oil were spilled in North Dakota.
The pipeline expansion is also facing hurdles in South Dakota, where a board deciding whether or not to grant water permits has now extended its hearing into the new year after opponents repeatedly voiced concerns.