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Judge limits TransCanada’s work on pipeline

December 10, 2018 GMT

A federal judge in Great Falls, Mont., clarified Friday what TransCanada will be allowed to do — and what it can’t do — on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline while environmental issues are pending.

The judge reaffirmed that TransCanada cannot conduct any pre-construction field activities on its proposed Keystone XL pipeline, but the court said the company can continue planning activities and maintain security efforts.

Earlier this month, the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana ruled that the Trump administration violated U.S. environmental laws when approving a federal construction permit for the pipeline. The ruling serves to block any construction while the government revises its environmental review, although TransCanada still has the option of appealing the Montana ruling.

Opponents of the pipeline interpreted Friday’s clarification as a victory for them.

“Farmers and ranchers thank the judge for seeing through TransCanada’s transparent power grab. Not an ounce of steel should be moved, given this foreign company does not possess a federal permit,” said Jane Kleeb, Bold Alliance president in Nebraska. “The Trump administration keeps thumbing their noses at the concerns of rural communities. We want our property rights and water protected, yet all the Trump administration cares about is aiding a foreign oil corporation.”

Jackie Prange, an attorney with the Natural Resource Defense Council, added, “Keystone XL cannot be built unless and until the Trump administration complies with the law. So far, we’ve seen no indication that it plans to do so. Today’s decision is one more victory for the rule of law over this reckless and risky project.”

The pipeline is scheduled to be routed through parts of North Central and Northeast Nebraska — including Madison County — when construction begins. Another roadblock still pending is a court case in Nebraska involving a decision by the state’s Public Service Commission to approve an alternate route for the pipeline through Nebraska.