Keystone XL: Environmental and Native Groups Sue to Halt Pipeline

Native American groups as well as environmental advocates are challenging the State Department's approval, based on its about-face on the environmental impact.

Native Americans have led the latest protest against Keystone XL
Native Americans have led the latest rounds of protest against Keystone XL's approval by the Trump administration. Credit: Getty Images

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Several environmental and Native American advocacy groups have filed two separate lawsuits against the State Department over its approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The Sierra Club, Northern Plains Resource Council, Bold Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth and the Natural Resources Defense Council filed a federal lawsuit in Montana on Thursday, challenging the State Department’s border-crossing permit and related environmental reviews and approvals.

The suit came on the heels of a related suit against the State Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service filed by the Indigenous Environmental Network and North Coast Rivers Alliance in the same court on Monday.

The State Department issued a permit for the project, a pipeline that would carry tar sands crude oil from Canada to Nebraska, on March 24. Regulators in Nebraska must still review the proposed route there.

The State Department and TransCanada, the company proposing to build the pipeline, declined to comment.   

The suit filed by the environmental groups argues that the State Department relied solely on an outdated and incomplete environmental impact statement completed in January 2014. That assessment, the groups argue, failed to properly account for the pipeline’s threats to the climate, water resources, wildlife and communities along the pipeline route.

“In their haste to issue a cross-border permit requested by TransCanada Keystone Pipeline L.P. (TransCanada), Keystone XL’s proponent, Defendants United States Department of State (State Department) and Under Secretary of State Shannon have violated the National Environmental Policy Act and other law and ignored significant new information that bears on the project’s threats to the people, environment, and national interests of the United States,” the suit states. “They have relied on an arbitrary, stale, and incomplete environmental review completed over three years ago, for a process that ended with the State Department’s denial of a crossborder permit.”

“The Keystone XL pipeline is nothing more than a dirty and dangerous proposal thats time has passed,” the Sierra Club’s executive director, Michael Brune, said in a statement. “It was rightfully rejected by the court of public opinion and President Obama, and now it will be rejected in the court system.”

The suit filed by the Native American groups also challenges the State Department’s environmental impact statement. They argue it fails to adequately justify the project and analyze reasonable alternatives, adverse impacts and mitigation measures. The suit claims  the assessment was “irredeemably tainted” because it was prepared by Environmental Management, a company with a “substantial conflict of interest.”

“President Trump is breaking established environmental laws and treaties in his efforts to force through the Keystone XL Pipeline, that would bring carbon-intensive, toxic, and corrosive crude oil from the Canadian tar sands, but we are filing suit to fight back,” Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network said in a statement. “For too long, the U.S. Government has pushed around Indigenous peoples and undervalued our inherent rights, sovereignty, culture, and our responsibilities as guardians of Mother Earth and all life while fueling catastrophic extreme weather and climate change with an addiction to fossil fuels.”