Environmental Groups Sue Over Keystone Pipeline

Several environmental groups sued the Department of Interior (DOI) and others Tuesday for the granting of a right-of-way and temporary use permit for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project.  “Keystone XL would move massive quantities of tar sands crude oil—one of the planet’s most environmentally destructive energy sources—from Canada to Steele City, Nebraska, threatening the wildlife, waterways, and communities along its path.”

Plaintiffs Bold Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club stated they have previously prevailed in a challenge to federal approvals of the Keystone XL pipeline in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana, which is also where this suit was filed.  Defendants DOI, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) were all involved in the process of granting the right-of-way and temporary use permit for the proposed pipeline.  The pipeline would cross approximately 44 miles of federal land in Montana that are administered by the Bureau.  In total the pipeline would be 1,200 miles long and end up being one of the largest pipelines built in the U.S.

The plaintiffs alleged that this action is unlawful, because the Bureau “based its decision on revised versions of the environmental review documents that still violate NEPA, the ESA, and the APA because they make only a cursory attempt to rectify the problems identified by the court.”

For example, the defendants said the new Environmental Impact Statement provides no support for its renewed conclusion that Keystone XL would have no effect on tar sands development despite the precipitous drop in oil price.  Furthermore, the revised documents continue to incorrectly minimize the likelihood of oil spills and the impacts of those spills on protected species, according to the plaintiffs.  The plaintiffs charge that the defendants violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Mineral Leasing Act (MLA), the Federal Land Policy Management Act (FLPMA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

The first claim argued the defendants did not comply with NEPA, because the environmental impact statements (EIS) “[did] not include a full and fair analysis of Keystone XL’s significant direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental effects.”  The second claim alleges the defendants violated the ESA by “[failing] to provide an adequate assessment of the potential harm to listed species from oil spills associated with the Keystone XL before granting the right-of-way and temporary use permit.”  Next, the third claim asserted the defendants also violated the ESA because the Bureau’s 2019 Biological Assessment also failed to provide a proper assessment of the potential harm to listed species from the possible oil spills.  The plaintiffs’ remaining claims focus on arguments that the defendants violated requirements of the MLA, FLPMA, and APA.

The plaintiffs asked that the court vacate and set aside the Bureau’s right-of-way grant and temporary use permit for the pipeline and issue an injunction prohibiting any activity in furtherance of the construction or operation of the pipeline. 

Plaintiffs are being represented by the Bechtold Law Firm.