Courts Allow Keystone XL Pipeline to Move Forward With Planning Despite Construction Halt

Developer TransCanada has had these pipes ready since at least 2014.
Developer TransCanada has had these pipes ready since at least 2014.
Photo: Getty

Earlier this month, a district court judge in Montana halted all construction on the Keystone XL pipeline in a major symbolic victory for environmentalists. Now, that judge is allowing developer TransCanada to go ahead and begin preliminary planning for its construction work.


U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris made this decision Wednesday, per the Associated Press, after the energy company made the request to continue this preliminary work Tuesday. This ruling will allow TransCanada to proceed to plan work, meet with stakeholders, and finalize contracts and permits. Sorting out all this is key for the project to stay on schedule to begin construction early next year. The judge still has to decide whether TransCanada can continue with road upgrades, moving around pipes, and preparing sites for work camps.

“We will now resume engaging with all stakeholders as we move forward with some of our pre-construction activities that are required for the prudent, safe, and environmentally sound construction of the project,” wrote Terry Cunha, spokesperson for TransCanada, in an email to Earther. “It is too soon to say what the injunction will mean to the timeline of the Keystone XL pipeline, but we remain confident the project will be built.”

Judge Morris pumped the brakes on this controversial 1,179-mile long crude oil pipeline after ruling that its presidential permit ignored key impacts to climate change. Now, the project can’t move forward before the State Department includes information on greenhouse gas emissions, as well as on potential impacts to cultural resources and updated oil spill modeling, in the analysis.

Paperwork around contracts and meetings would’ve delayed the project further, but the judge is apparently playing nice. Opponents, however, won’t. They haven’t been for the last 10 years. They don’t want this pipeline going anywhere near their natural resources, their land, or their water—especially indigenous peoples.

“We stand committed to making sure this project does not get built,” said Dallas Goldtooth, a campaign organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network, to Earther. “And that construction, in whatever means, does not happen on indigenous lands or against the wishes and wants of Native communities along the pipeline route.”

Once the new environmental review is in, the judge can really decide whether this pipeline will happen. Of course, that decision can be appealed, but there’s always the chance TransCanada will finally give up. No one should hold their breath on that one, though.


As for opponents, they’re keeping a watchful eye on the different construction sites near their communities. Should any activity happen, best believe they’ll make some noise.

Yessenia Funes is climate editor at Atmos Magazine. She loves Earther forever.


Dense non aqueous phase liquid

Keystone XL is like a gift from god for Transcanada’s major competitor, Enbridge. It keeps all the attention on one section of one pipeline as the lion’s share of diluted tar sands bitumen flows swimmingly through a bunch more major pipelines to heavy crude upgraded refineries in the Midwest and Gulf Coast US.

Keystone XL northern half is the route in contention (Canada to Cushing, OK). Keystone XL southern half from Cushing to Port Arthur, TX was built and is at chockablock full capacity. Chiefly due to rerouting Illinois pipelines starting at terminals near Chicago.

What Transcanada may be doing is re evaluating the need for KXL northern run. They could win by losing this court case. They would get to carrying on with the lawsuit against US Govt for cost and profit recovery (like more than $15 billion for nothing) on the one hand. And on the other, say environmental justice prevailed and hire some native Americans and EJ experts like Mustafa Ali to improve its image. Meanwhile Enbridge is ramping up Line 3 upgrades through Northern Wisconsin like a motherfucker.

The blue circles at Cushing, OK, Patoka, IL, Texas Gulf and Mississippi River Gulf are the key points for Canada’s thick goo.