By Michelle Bigelbach
The Courier 

Keystone XL Developer Requests Pre-Construction Work Continue


January 23, 2019

A.J. Etherington / The Courier

Pipe is staged in anticipation of the Keystone XL Pipeline's construction that was set to start this Spring before being enjoined by a Federal Judge in Great Falls. TransCanada has asked a judge to allow construction to continue citing the potential for "irreparable harm" if they are not allowed to proceed as planned.

Attorneys for TransCanada Corp. argued in front of Judge Brian Morris in Great Falls on Jan. 14, requesting that construction of worker camps and pipe yards begin again after being halted in November.

Construction on Keystone XL was anticipated to begin this spring and in preparation, pipe was being trucked in and stored as early as last October. Preparations were also underway for worker camp construction at camps projected to go in near Glendive and Hinsdale. However, all of those preparations were stopped in November when Judge Morris overturned the U.S. State Department issued permit for the oil pipeline and ordered the agency to conduct additional environmental review. While the review is completed, Judge Morris also issued an injunction blocking any construction related to the pipeline. At the end of November, Judge Morris later clarified his ruling; by stating any preliminary work associated with the project could continue however all physical construction must continue to be halted.

On Nov. 8, TransCanada appealed the decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but while the appeal process proceeds, they want to continue salvaging the 2019 construction season, which is why they requested the hearing. If pre-construction is allowed to begin by Feb. 1, construction of the pipeline would occur as early as June, while if it's allowed to begin by March 15, work could begin in August. If pre-construction work is not granted, TransCanada could lose skilled workers, which in turn would put the schedule even further behind and would make it impossible to begin construction this year.

During the hearing on Jan. 14, TransCanada argued the construction of worker camps and pipe yards along with moving pipe into those yards were out of the court's jurisdiction since the work was occurring on private lands, under private leases and with permits from the local government. In their motion, TransCanada wrote "Absent a stay of the permanent injunction, TransCanada will continue to suffer irreparable harm. Additionally, the current injunction impedes, among other things, the United States' interest in energy security and a strong bilateral relationship with Canada."

However attorneys for the Northern Plains Resource Council argued that the construction of the camps should not continue since they are directly related to the federal permit for the pipeline and the work that would be completed during the construction process should also be subject to environment review. The lawyers expressed concern that the construction of camps and yards could create bureaucratic momentum, influencing the ultimate permit decision and limiting alternative options.

As of press time Judge Morris had not reached a decision on the matter.


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