Looks like the controversial, off-again-on-again Keystone XL Pipeline is back in business. An appeals court dismissed an ongoing lawsuit Thursday that was challenging the legality of the energy project. This means that developer TC Energy can begin construction of the 1,179-mile pipeline from Canada to Nebraska.
In March, President Trump used his authority to issue a presidential memorandum and push through the project. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals saw this move and deemed the ongoing lawsuit as “moot” in its order. By doing so, it reversed a November decision that paused construction on the pipeline after a judge criticized the project’s lack of detail on climate change impacts.
Needless to say, pipeline opponents are not happy. Many—from Native American tribes to farmers—didn’t want the pipeline running through their lands, which they believe will pose a major threat to their water and health. Plus, constructing another major conduit for fossil fuels—some 830,000 barrels of oil a day, to be exact—will only worsen the climate crisis.
“The Keystone XL pipeline would threaten the livelihoods of our farmers and ranchers and endanger drinking water for tens of thousands of Montanans,” said Dena Hoff, a Montana farmer and Northern Plains Resource Council member, in a release from the Natural Resources Defense Council.
They’ve been fighting this pipeline long before Trump became president—and they won’t stop now. Challengers are clear that they plan to “explore all available legal avenues,” as NRDC Senior Attorney Jackie Prange said, in the release. Legal experts speculated the president’s move to reignite the pipeline via presidential memorandum, which essentially circumvents federal regulatory approval, could be illegal, but a judge will ultimately make that call.
What’s clear is that this won’t be an easy fight. Not only are the courts seemingly siding with the polluters; so are elected officials. In South Dakota, at least, Governor Kristi Noem passed laws in March that could penalize people who protest pipelines like Keystone XL.
Typically if the courts fail, activists turn to direct action—but protesting could land them in bars for up to 25 years with one of South Dakota’s new laws. The Riot Boosting Act punishes those who engage in “riot boosting” while offering a very broad definition for the term that may include participating in, advising, and even encouraging “riots to act of force or violence.” The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the state over the new laws.
Things are heating up in the Midwest, and this is only the beginning.