When President Barack Obama rejected the Keystone permit in 2015, he was weeks away from negotiating an international global warming accord in Paris, and he sought to use the move as a symbol of his global leadership on climate change. He argued the pipeline would undercut United States leadership in curbing global reliance on fossil fuels.
Two days after Mr. Trump took office, though, he made Keystone a symbol of the post-Obama era of climate policy and energy, signing an executive order overturning Mr. Obama’s rejection of the pipeline. That move signaled that Mr. Trump would be moving forward with an aggressive effort to more substantively dismantle Mr. Obama’s climate change legacy — including withdrawing the United States from the Paris accord.
In saying that no work can go forward until the government more fully reviews the pipeline’s environmental impact, the ruling further stokes the political battles over climate change by a president who dismisses mainstream science and whose administration is also seeking to block a landmark lawsuit on behalf of children asking the government to stop the rise of planet-warming gases.
Construction on many portions of the pipeline has already been competed. At issue is the final phase, a leg that would run from Steele City, Neb., through Montana to Canada.
Still, environmental groups hailed the move as a victory in the battle over Keystone, which has spanned more than a decade. “Keystone XL would be a disaster for the climate and for the people and wildlife of this country,” Jackie Prange, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement Thursday.
The oil industry characterized the move as the latest turn of the screw in the long-running legal battle. “Pipelines like KXL are the backbone of our nation’s energy infrastructure and one of the most environmentally sound ways to transport the fuel and petroleum products that power America,” said Robin Rorick, vice president of midstream operations for the American Petroleum Industry, which lobbies for oil companies.
“The pipeline has passed every environmental review conducted for it. In fact, a total of six assessments by both the Obama and Trump administrations concluded that KXL is safe to build,” Mr. Rorick said. “Calls to conduct identical environmental reviews makes no sense and are a waste of tax dollars.”