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Court rejects bid to revive permits for new oil and gas pipelines

Because of the ruling, industry representatives say over 70 projects could be delayed across the United States at a cost of up to $2 billion, according to ABC News.

This particular case originated in a challenge by environmentalists to the Keystone XL oil pipeline that runs from the oil sands of Canada to the U.S. That case and subsequent court rulings have affected oil and gas pipeline proposals across the nation.

Environmental groups contend the core of the problem centers around a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permitting program called
Nationwide Permit 12. This program allows companies to build pipelines across streams and wetlands with minimal review if they meet certain criteria.

Nationwide Permit 12 (NWP 12) also leaves companies unaccountable for damage done to water bodies during construction. The permit is a general permit under the Clean Water Act that authorizes discharges associated with the construction, maintenance, repair, and removal of utility lines and associated facilities.

When the Corps last reissued the Nationwide Permit 12 in 2017, it did not consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and/or National Marine Fisheries Service – instead – they decided that NWP 12 would have “no effect” on listed species or the environment.

File photo: The Keystone XL extension will be connected to an existng network in the US  allowing fo...

File photo: The Keystone XL extension will be connected to an existng network in the US, allowing for 830,000 barrels of oil to be transported from Alberta, Canada to US Gulf Coast refineries
Andrew Burton, Getty/AFP/File

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris in Montana, in a pair of rulings, said that in addition to the Corps failing to consult with wildlife agencies in 2017, the continued use of NWP12 could cause serious harm to protected species and critical wildlife habitat. A two-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied an emergency request to block Morris’ ruling, according to the Martinsville Bulletin.

“This is huge,” said Jared Margolis with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Hopefully this gives us a chance to put a pause on these major oil pipelines.”

Paul Afonso, chief legal officer for the American Petroleum Institute said that the ruling could cause delays of a year or more on more than 70 pending pipelines, increasing their combined costs by $2 billion.

“It is completely inappropriate that the district court has singled out natural gas and oil companies to cut out of a long-established regulatory process,” he said.

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Written By

Karen Graham is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for environmental news. Karen's view of what is happening in our world is colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in man's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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