Trump permit revives pipeline work

By Hannah Northey, Timothy Cama | 03/29/2019 04:20 PM EDT

Pipes for TransCanada Corp.'s planned Keystone XL pipeline sit in a depot in  Gascoyne, N.D.

Pipes for TransCanada Corp.'s planned Keystone XL pipeline sit in a depot in Gascoyne, N.D. Terray Sylvester/Reuters/Newscom

This story was updated at 6:30 p.m. EDT.

President Trump today issued a presidential permit authorizing the construction, operation and maintenance of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The order does not mention an environmental review.


The White House issued the order approving the pipeline’s construction and operation under conditions TransCanada Keystone Pipeline LP laid out. In doing so, Trump also announced he’s revoking a previous permit issued March 23, 2017, by the State Department.

The new permit immediately authorizes TransCanada Corp. to begin building the $8 billion, 1,200-mile pipeline to carry oil sands crude from Alberta to Texas refineries.

The permit appears intended to shield the Keystone XL decision from judicial scrutiny and from being overturned by federal courts. Instead of being issued by the State Department after an environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act, the new permit cites only Trump’s authority as president.

In November 2018, a federal judge halted construction and ordered the government to take a closer look at climate impacts from Keystone XL after the president revived the project shortly after taking office (Energywire, Dec. 18, 2018).

Judge Brian Morris for the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana found the Trump administration did not do a thorough job of analyzing emissions — and other impacts — from the oil conduit. His decision largely relied on NEPA and the Endangered Species Act, neither of which is mentioned in today’s permit.

NEPA, a 1970 law meant to ensure federal agencies consider the environmental impacts of their actions and the opinions of locals, applies only to federal agencies, not to actions taken solely by the president.

For now, the injunction against Keystone XL construction is still in place. The Trump administration or TransCanada may cite the new permit and ask that the injunction be lifted.

TransCanada cheered Trump’s new permit and thanked him for it.

"President Trump has been clear that he wants to create jobs and advance U.S. energy security and the Keystone XL pipeline does both of those things," Russ Girling, the company’s president, said in a statement.

"The Keystone XL pipeline has been studied more than any other pipeline in history and the environmental reviews are clear — the project can be built and operated in an environmentally sustainable and responsible way," he said.