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Judge Suspends Keystone XL Order, Saying Trump Ignored Facts and Law

Time for some good news: a federal judge in Montana has put the Keystone XL pipeline on ice again!

Judge Brian Morris of the U.S. District Court in Montana found that, in its rush to appease Big Oil, the Trump Administration violated the law by reversing the Obama Administration’s rejection of Keystone XL without facts, study, or sufficient explanation. The judge actually ruled against the environmentalist litigants on more points than he accepted, and many of the shortcomings the judge identifies in the State Department’s study of Keystone XL predate the Trump Administration. But Trump can’t move forward with this project until he rectifies those shortcomings by doing his homework. Specifically:

  1. The State Department failed to analyze changes in oil prices since 2014, when the Department predicated its business case for Keystone XL on oil prices ranging between $100 and $140. The U.S. Energy Information Administration now says oil will stay below $100 for the foreseeable economic future, and oil has stayed below the $65-$75 break-even point since the 2014 assessment.
  2. The State Department needs to analyze greenhouse gas emissions from the tandem of Keystone XL and the Alberta Clipper pipelines and resolve massive discrepancies in its estimates of damage to the planet.
  3. The State Department has not sufficiently accounted for potential damage to cultural resources along the pipeline construction route.
  4. The State Department needs to update the 2002–2012 oil spill data used in the 2014 study with data from more recent spills, like those along TransCanada’s Keystone 1 in South Dakota.
  5. The Trump Administration broke the law when it ignored scientific facts about climate change and offered no reasoned explanation for reversing the policy of the previous Administration on Keystone XL. (Translation: even a new President is not entitled to his own facts.)

Now don’t get too excited. In vacating Trump’s Keystone XL green light, the judge does not kill Keystone XL. The ruling only requires that the State Department come back with fuller analysis to justify the change in policy.

But every day that TransCanada can’t tear up western South Dakota to pipe its tar sands oil to the global market is another day that TransCanada and its shippers may decide that the pipeline isn’t worth building. And when the State Department does its homework, it may have to admit that building Keystone XL will only increase oil prices, tar sands production, and greenhouse gas emissions, all of which facts would only support President Barack Obama’s conclusion that Keystone XL does not serve the interests of the United States of America.


  1. Jason 2018-11-09

    So Cory wants the oil to go to China instead of the USA.

    Please explain that to us Cory.

  2. Jason 2018-11-09


    You forgot to mention that Obama denied the pipeline without facts,

    I will be happy to debate this issue with you based on facts and law. Are you ready to do that?

  3. Dana P 2018-11-10

    Facts and law. Sounds like a judge applied facts and law (because that what judges do) to this decision against the Trump admin.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-11-10

    Let’s not mistake Obama for Trump. Obama based his decision on facts and evidence that Jason doesn’t like. Trump based his reversal on a campaign slogan, not any new facts, evidence, or formal analysis that satisfy the “hard look” standard demanded by law and applied by the court.

  5. OldSarg 2018-11-10

    Cory “Obama based his decision on facts and evidence” do you honestly think Obama sat down and went over the scientific evidence himself? It is the same scientist and environmental folks that worked for Obama that are working for Trump. The “very” same.

    As far as “Is a pipeline safer and more environmentally friendly than shipping oil using trucks and trains?” A pipeline is always safer, more environmentally friendly and reduces the cost of shipping. There is no rational argument against the pipeline. The only argument is the “Not in my backyard” issue.

    And when it comes to ignoring climate change when you can show me or anyone else how, scientifically, man can control anything the climate does let me know so I can help the folks in California put out the fires.

    A far as the fracking issue; It was the Russians behind the anti-fracking. It was their method of keeping 1) the price of oil up and 2) reducing American energy independence. Fracking actually produces less methanols than regular drilling.

  6. mike from iowa 2018-11-10

    It is the same scientist and environmental folks that worked for Obama that are working for Trump. The “very” same.

    Bullsnot! And you know darn good and well Snott Screwit is a climate denier/anti-science goon and the scientists were replaced in short order at EPA.

    And crook Screwit’s replacement is even less trusting of science and scientists.

    Oldshedhisantlersandhisbrainfellout,too is cra-cra.

  7. mike from iowa 2018-11-10

    Anti-frackers are those people whose drinking water catches fire because of chemicals in the fracking water get into groundwater supplies, all the while the fracking companies and stoopid wingnut pols claim there is no danger from unknown chemicals or earthquakes, etc.

  8. OldSarg 2018-11-10

    mike, it isn’t the directors that do the grunt work. It is the regular GS employees. The are not politically appointed. I personally work with the environmentalist that are studying all the fire suppression polluting that has occurred. They are not the president, directors or even managers. They are regular people with bachelors or a masters in an engineering field. Simple people dong hard work.

    Fracking takes place at levels much lower than where drinking water comes from. Normally deeper than 6K feet. The hole the pipe goes down to reach those levels is twice lined with pipe so those don’t leak either.

  9. mike from iowa 2018-11-10

    The directors tell the grunt workers what they are going to do and which way the department is headed. Under wingnuts, science and scientists are discarded and industry directs the department’s mission.

    Under Drumpf, the EPA has done nothing to protect the environment and everything possible to allow oil, gas and timber, mining and other industries to have basically free access to all of America’s public lands for development without environmental impact statements.

  10. Ed 2018-11-10

    A couple of right wing supporters on this blog must think it is okay for a foreign corporation to have the power to use eminent domain on property owners in our country for the corporation’s personal gain. I wonder if they would feel the same if their land and property were being threatened. I thought the GOP used to be for freedom and property rights. It now appears that greed wins out.

  11. OldSarg 2018-11-10

    Ed, I don’t think the pipeline will be built. The cost to refine Canadian tar sand oil isn’t high enough to warrant the spending on the pipeline.

    On the other hand, if you care about the environment, a pipeline is significantly safer than trucking the oil to a holding tank, pumping to a train car, running the train to the Mississippi, offloading to a barge, floating all the way to the coast and offloading the oil at the refinery. With a pipeline the oil is trucked or piped to the pipeline and flows gently down to the coast. No big deal and so many fewer opportunities for mistakes.

  12. Debbo 2018-11-10

    OS said, “And when it comes to ignoring climate change when you can show me or anyone else how, scientifically, man can control anything the climate does let me know so I can help the folks in California put out the fires.”

    Right here is one example. We humans changed our behavior to close up the ozone hole in the atmosphere and it’s working. From NASA.

  13. Donald Pay 2018-11-10

    I’m not sure how many scientists have been cut, but Trump’s proposed EPA budget did try to cut many of the scientists. It’s part of the Republican war on science, but not all Republicans are on-board and Democrats threaten filibusters, so I think the scientists mostly survived.

    I know for a fact that scientists are often overruled by the political operatives. They let the scientist do the research, then at the last minute change a few sentences in the conclusions and try to sneak it by. I got some leaked documents on the black-footed ferret decisions a couple decades ago showing how the political operatives go about trashing the science. It’s always last minute, small wording changes that have big legal impacts. They leave no time for the federal scientists to respond.

    This happened regularly in the GW Bush administration, and the Trumpsters are even more relentless about politically directed fake science. But the Trumpsters are dumb. They haven’t figured out how to be stealthy about their dishonesty.

  14. mike from iowa 2018-11-10

    Dubya was dangerous but he never once claimed to be smarter than his lawyers, his Generals, his 40 year tenured Uncle at MIT and everybody else like Drumpf has.

  15. Robert McTaggart 2018-11-10

    The best way to avoid pipelines is to power our transportation needs by something other than oil. Then there won’t be the need for pipelines.

    Until we are willing to do that, the two options we have are not to use energy at all, or to deliver the fuel we demand by the safest means possible. The latter will be more acceptable to the public.

  16. Ed 2018-11-10

    OS, we agree that the pipeline should never be built because of economic reasons. Tar sands should be left in the ground. We don’t agree that underground pipelines are the safest means of transport. That is a right wing talking point without basis. The fact remains that anyone supporting the Keystone Pipeline supports giving a foreign entity the right to use eminent domain to confiscate our citizens’ property for the profit of that entity. That is un-American.

  17. OldSarg 2018-11-10

    Don, there are no scientist working for the federal government doing the work you hope they are doing. The government employees are working off a checklist of required rules and regulations they follow. The government employees that have conducted the required checklists for the pipeline are simply organizing the information into an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The government employees may hire a civilian company to come drill wells and take water samples or even civilian lab to run the tests on the water but the government doesn’t do the testing. Think about it like building an Interstate Highway: The government may fund the project but there is no government road building crew. They hire civilian companies to to the work for them. So, whether Trump fired every employee (supposed scientist) or not would have no effect on the pipeline really. The pipeline is just a ping pong ball for the politicians.

  18. mike from iowa 2018-11-10

    EPA is full of scientists of all stripes.

  19. Donald Pay 2018-11-10

    OldSarg is right. Most of the work on EISs is contracted out, but there are scientists in various agencies who oversee the process, cajole for additional information, etc.

  20. jerry 2018-11-10

    Oil is not worth much these days except for the connected oil jobbers in Rapid City ($2.84 for regular in Sioux Falls, $2.59) Water is what a pipeline needs to take care of the thirsty folks down south, whose water is so contaminated, it is unfit to drink. Think a water pipeline has not been discused and agreed to by South Dakota Republicans? Think again.

    “October 9, 1981, Washington Post

    The state of South Dakota has entered into a precedent-setting, $1.4 billion deal to sell Missouri River water to a private energy corporation to move Wyoming coal slurry 1,300 miles south to Gulf of Mexico ports.

    South Dakota agreed to the sale at a time when it is suffering from the worst drought since the 1930s and also wrestling with severe financial stress.

    The deal, which is being opposed by several downstream states, underscores a growing phenomenon in the Midwest and West in which the region’s sparse water is becoming more valuable for the extraction and use of minerals than for farming and more traditional Western endeavors.

    The amount of water sold by South Dakota is relatively small–16 billion gallons a year for the next 50 years. South Dakota Gov. William Janklow argues it amounts to just one for every 4,850 gallons of Missouri River water flowing out of his state. South Dakota plans to use its unexpected financial bonanza to set up a water-development fund to finance irrigation projects in the drought-plagued state.”

    There is all the pipe laying around….hmmm

  21. RJ 2018-11-10

    Are you an engineer or do you have any experience or wisdom related to this issue OS?

  22. OldSarg 2018-11-11

    RJ, not an engineer and are you asking about the selling of water? Don’t know anything about it. Does Jerry have a link?

  23. mike from iowa 2018-11-11

    OldScammerslammerjammer is a Lakota culture ex-spurt wannabe.

  24. jerry 2018-11-11

    Yes, the link is Washington Post archives. October 9, 1981 was the publish date.

  25. mike from iowa 2018-11-11

    From WSJ- Mr. Trump criticized the ruling. “Well, it was a political decision made by a judge,” he said to reporters outside the White House Friday before heading to France. “I think it’s a disgrace.”

    Says the guy who has appointed the most obvious political hacks to be judges in history.And the party that is clearly happy to vet these jokes while there are no Democrats around to ask hard questions.

    The next time a wingnut suggests only Libs have litmus tests for judiciary, spit in their face.

  26. OldSarg 2018-11-11

    mike, the judge is not a scientist.

  27. mike from iowa 2018-11-11

    mike, the judge is not a scientist.

    You ain’t none too bright. Or else you be deliberately obtuse. Nah, you’re none too bright.

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