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DOJ Attorneys Assert Keystone XL Judge Can’t Overrule Presidential Permit

The Trump Administration claims a Montana federal judge has no authority to challenge a presidential permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline as the government seeks to finally clear the way for the pipeline by dismissing a lawsuit that would block the project, according to a news report published in the Houston Chronicle.

U.S. Department of Justice attorneys are due in Montana federal court on Wednesday to defend the Trump Administration’s March approval of the 1,179-mile pipeline.

The TransCanada pipeline would transport Canadian crude oil through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska before connecting with an existing system of pipelines to carry oil to Gulf Coast refineries.

While the Obama Administration rejected the project, President Trump revived the proposal in March, indicating the Keystone XL would create jobs and lead to greater energy independence.

Conservation and Native American groups sued over the project, alleging that a 2014 environmental review was inadequate. They are seeking a ruling from U.S. District Judge Brian Morris to revoke the Keystone XL permit.

In their motion to dismiss the case, DOJ attorneys allege Judge Morris cannot intervene because the Constitution gives authority to President Trump over matters of foreign affairs and national security.

“The remedy that plaintiffs seek – an injunction against the presidential permit – is not available because such an order would impermissibly infringe on the president’s authority,” wrote Bridget McNeil, a government attorney working on the case.

Pipeline opponents indicated current market conditions must be weighed by the State Department before issuing the permit.

“In a low oil market world, adding close to a million barrels a day of capacity out of the tar sands is a lifeline for that industry,” said Doug Hayes, an attorney with the Sierra Club. “You can’t say it’s going to find its way to market whether this pipeline is built.”

Keystone has faced heated opposition from landowners whose property would be crossed by the line, according to the Houston Chronicle news report.

The Nebraska Public Service Commission must decide by November 23 whether to give approval for the project. South Dakota and Montana regulators have approved the project.