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Keystone Faces Delays After Appeal Court Upholds Withdrawal of Environmental Permit

The Keystone XL pipeline and other U.S. pipeline projects are facing further delays, after a federal appeal court in California declined last week to reverse a lower court decision to cancel a national environmental permit that had enabled construction to proceed.

The Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld the prior decision by Montana federal court judge Brian Morris after concluding that the Army Corps of Engineers and TC Energy, the pipeliner previously known as TransCanada, “have not demonstrated a sufficient likelihood of success on the merits and probability of irreparable harm to warrant a stay pending appeal,” Reuters reports.

Now, “the issue could take months to resolve barring further court intervention,” The Associated Press says. And the clock is beginning to run out for Keystone, with presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden pledging to cancel the project after he enters the White House on January 20, 2021.

In his mid-April decision, Morris ruled the Army Corps “did not adequately consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on risks to endangered species and habitat when it renewed the permit in 2017,” Reuters writes. “To allow the agency to continue authorizing new pipeline construction ‘could seriously injure protected species and critical habitat’,” the judge wrote.

In a separate dispatch, Reuters says the appeals court decision could also produce months of delays for the two biggest gas pipelines now under construction in the U.S., Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast line and EQM Midstream Partners’ Mountain Valley project, both originating in West Virginia. “The Trump administration has pressed ahead with new pipeline construction, but several projects have been stalled by successful legal challenges saying the administration is not applying careful regulatory scrutiny,” the news agency explains.