The Glasgow Courier - Serving Proudly As The Voice Of Valley County Since 1913

By Michelle Bigelbach
The Courier 

Legal Battles Continue to Stop Construction of KXL Pipeline

 


A month after TransCanada Corp. attorneys argued in front of Judge Brian Morris in Great Falls requesting the injunction he placed on the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in November be lifted, Judge Morris ruled on Feb. 15 he would mostly keep the injunction in place. In his ruling, he denied the request to begin constructing worker camps, however did state TransCanada could perform some limited activities such as the construction and use of pipe storage and container yards, in addition to preliminary work such as purchase of materials, land surveys and finalizing contracts.

After hauling truckloads of pipes that are to be used in the construction of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline to staging areas along the pipeline's future route in northern Phillips and Valley County in October, TransCanada has been in a legal battle to continue with the construction of the project.

On Nov. 8, 2018, Judge Morris blocked further construction of the pipeline in U.S. District Court for the District of Montana in Great Falls, as environmental groups including Indigenous Environmental Network, the North Coast River Alliance and the Northern Plains Resource Council sued the U.S. State Department, TransCanada Keystone Pipeline and the TransCanada Corporation, as previously reported by The Glasgow Courier. The Judge ruled the Trump administration had not fully considered the environmental effects of the pipeline and ordered a new review. In the meantime, he halted all construction-related activities to the pipeline.

With the injunction in place, TransCanada could not do any work in regards to the construction of the pipeline, which in turn resulted in the risk of the project falling behind schedule. At the request of the company, attorneys from TransCanada argued Judge Morris needed to clarify or amend his ruling for the injunction and requested a hearing. They stated their case on the importance of continuing to do preliminary work while his order blocking the construction would be in effect. Preliminary work included purchasing materials, conducting land surveys, discussing federal permits and finalizing contracts. On Nov. 28, Judge Morris ruled TransCanada could continue to do the preliminary work however his order blocking construction would still be in effect.

With no resolution in sight, TransCanada did not want to completely lose the 2019 construction season, so they requested another hearing, which occurred on Jan. 14, stating if pre-construction were to be allowed to begin by Feb. 1, construction of the pipeline would occur as early as June. If it’s allowed to begin by March 15, work could begin in August. However, if pre-construction work would not be granted at all, TransCanada argued they would lose workers, which in turn put the project even further behind schedule, making it impossible to begin construction in 2019. During the hearing, TransCanada attorneys requested the construction of worker camps and pipe yards begin again after being halted. Attorneys for the Northern Plains Resource Council argued the construction of the camps should not be continued as 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.

Even though the Feb. 15 ruling allows TransCanada to continue planning and constructing the pipeline, the legal battles are not done. An appeal of the November ruling is pending before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. With no end in sight, and the inability to construct worker camps, the schedule will further be pushed behind schedule.

 

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