“The department instead simply discarded prior factual findings related to climate change to support its course reversal.”
(AFP) President Donald Trump on Friday denounced a ruling by a federal judge to halt construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, saying the decision had been made for political reasons.
US District Judge Brian Morris argued that the Trump administration had failed to explain why it had lifted a ban on the project in a stinging setback to the president but a big win for conservationists and indigenous groups.
Trump denounced the ruling as “a disgrace” while the Canadian government said it was “disappointed.”
Trump had granted a permit for the $8 billion conduit meant to stretch from Canada to Texas just days after taking office last year. He said it would create jobs and spur development of infrastructure.
In doing so the administration overturned a decision by then-president Barack Obama in 2015 that denied a permit for the pipeline, largely on environmental grounds, in particular US contribution to climate change.
The analysis of a cross-border project like this is done by the State Department.
The same environmental analysis that the department carried out before denying the permit in 2015 was ignored when the it turned around last year and approved it, Morris found.
“An agency cannot simply disregard contrary or inconvenient factual determinations that it made in the past, any more than it can ignore inconvenient facts when it writes on a blank slate,” Morris wrote.
He added: “The department instead simply discarded prior factual findings related to climate change to support its course reversal.”
The judge also argued that the State Department failed to properly account for factors such as low oil prices, the cumulative impacts of greenhouse gases from the pipeline and the risk of oil spills.
At the White House, Trump decried the ruling as a “political decision.”
“I think it’s a disgrace,” he said, adding that it was likely to be reviewed by an appellate court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, that he also accused of political bias.
“We’re slowly putting new judges in the ninth circuit.”
Vanessa Adams, a spokeswoman for Canadian Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi, said Ottawa was disappointed in the decision.
The project is “important for good, middle-class jobs in Canada and for a successful energy export market,” she added.
Thursday’s ruling is temporary, and requires the government to do a more thorough review of how the project might affect the climate, cultural resources and wildlife.
In a statement to AFP, pipeline builder TransCanada said it was reviewing the ruling.
“We remain committed to building this important energy infrastructure project,” spokesman Terry Cunha said.