A federal judge in Montana has ordered an environmental assessment for the altered route of TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
The ruling comes as the latest potential setback for a pipeline that the Calgary-based company has been trying to build for a decade.
Plaintiffs including the Indigenous Environmental Network and Northern Plains Resource Council had brought the lawsuit after Nebraska approved an alternative route to the one TransCanada had proposed through the state.
They argued that the U.S. State Department violated several acts in issuing a presidential permit for the pipeline without a proper environmental assessment of the changed route.
LISTEN: Danielle Smith is joined by Dennis McConaghy to discuss the new setbacks facing the Keystone XL pipeline
United States District Court Judge Brian Morris ruled that federal defendants need to supplement their environmental assessment, but declined to revoke the presidential permit.
Supporting the project are Canadian oil producers, who face price discounts over transport bottlenecks, and U.S. oil interests and pipeline builders.
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Morris said in his ruling that the added environmental assessment should be completed before TransCanada’s planned start to construction in the second quarter of 2019, and will consider further remedies if that becomes no longer possible.
TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha said the company was studying the ruling and had no immediate comment.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did the State Department.
The proposed 1,897-kilometre, $10-billion pipeline would carry crude from Hardisty, Alberta to Steel City, Nebraska.
Last year, Nebraska regulators approved an alternative route for the pipeline which will cost TransCanada millions of dollars more than the original path.
In a draft environmental assessment last month, the State Department said Keystone XL would cause no major harm to water supplies or wildlife. That review is less wide-ranging than the full environmental impact statement Morris ordered.