President Trump on Friday issued a presidential permit to allow the Keystone XL pipeline project to move forward, a move necessitated after a judge placed an injunction against Trump’s original 2017 executive action.
The action makes the project less vulnerable to legal challenges by environmental groups by not delegating the actual permitting of the pipeline to the State Department, which handles the licensing of cross-border energy projects. Instead, issuing the permit directly from the president gives it a better chance of withstanding judicial review.
A federal district in Montana last year rescinded Trump’s original 2017 order for the pipeline to go forward. A court injunction was also placed on construction activity, while the State Department revises its environmental review for the project.
Industry officials said that Friday’s permit seeks to overcome the injunction to resume construction on the border.
Friday’s order also rescinds the original March 2017 presidential order and replaces it with Friday’s presidential permit, granting the company TransCanada permission “to construct, connect, operate, and maintain pipeline facilities at the international border of the United States and Canada.”
Mike Sommers, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, applauded the new order, touting the president’s “no-nonsense approach to permitting this essential critical infrastructure project.”
“The Keystone XL Pipeline has passed every environmental review conducted over the last decade under both the Obama and Trump administrations,” Sommers added. “Every study has concluded it can be built safely, with no significant impact to the environment.”
The Keystone XL project was delayed for seven years under the Obama administration and then denied a permit for reasons related to climate change and the 2015 Paris climate accord.
Trump reversed Obama’s decision soon after being sworn in as president, and approving Keystone XL has become a hallmark achievement of his first term in office. However, environmental groups have bogged it down in the courts.
The environmentalist Sierra Club scorned Friday’s announcement. “The courts have repeatedly rejected Trump’s attempts to get this pipeline built, so now he’s shamefully attempting to bypass our bedrock environmental laws for the benefit of a foreign pipeline company,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. “We will continue to pursue every available avenue to ensure that this pipeline is never built.”