BILLINGS, Mont. — The U.S. Supreme Court has handed another setback to the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada by keeping in place a lower court ruling that blocked a key permit for the project.
Canadian company TC Energy needs the permit to continue building the long-disputed pipeline from Canada across U.S. rivers and streams. Without it, the project that has been heavily promoted by President Donald Trump faces more delays just as work on it had finally begun this year following years of courtroom battles.
Monday’s order also put on hold a earlier court ruling out of Montana as it pertains to other oil and gas pipelines across the nation.
That’s a sliver of good news for an industry that just suffered two other blows — Sunday’s cancellation of the $8 billion Atlantic Coast gas pipeline in the Southeast and on Monday a ruling that shut down the Dakota Access oil pipeline in North Dakota.
In the Keystone case, an April ruling from U.S. District Judge Brian Morris in Montana had threatened to delay not just Keystone but more than 70 pipeline projects across the U.S., and add as much as $2 billion in costs, according to industry representatives.
Morris agreed with environmentalists who contended a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers program was allowing companies to skirt responsibility for damage done to water bodies.
But the Trump administration and industry attorneys had argued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit program, in place since the 1970s, was functioning properly when it was cancelled by Morris over concerns about endangered species being harmed during pipeline construction.
TC Energy spokesman Terry Cunha said the company is not giving up on Keystone, but it will delay large portions of the 1,200-mile oil sands pipeline.
An attorney for one of the environmental groups involved in the case called Monday’s order a major victory in the fight against Keystone. But he acknowledged the plaintiffs had hoped to hamper oil and gas projects nationwide.
“Our focus was originally on Keystone, so we’re very happy the court order ensures it can’t move forward under this unlawful permit,” said Jared Margolis, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.