Judge orders new federal review of Keystone XL Pipeline

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A federal judge has ordered the U.S. State Department to conduct a more thorough review of the Keystone XL pipeline’s proposed pathway after Nebraska state regulators changed the route, raising the possibility of further delays to a project first proposed in 2008.

 

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris of Montana said in a ruling Wednesday that the State Department must supplement its 2014 environmental impact study of the project to consider the new route. Morris declined to strike down the federal permit for the project, approved by President Donald Trump in March 2017.

The Nebraska Public Service Commission rejected pipeline developer TransCanada’s preferred route in November 2017, but approved a different pathway that stretches farther to the east. The “mainline alternative” route is five miles longer than the company’s preferred route, cuts through six different Nebraska counties and runs parallel to an existing TransCanada-owned pipeline for 89 miles.

State Department officials “have yet to analyze the mainline alternative route,” Morris wrote in his ruling. The State Department has “the obligation to analyze new information relevant to the environmental impacts of its decision.”

Last month, the State Department declared the pipeline would not have a major impact on Nebraska’s water, land or wildlife. The report said the company could mitigate any damage caused.

Pipeline opponents cheered the decision and said they were confident that the courts would find other violations of federal law raised in the lawsuit.

The pipeline would carry up to 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day from Canada through Montana and South Dakota to Steele City, Nebraska, where it would connect with the original Keystone pipeline that runs down to Texas Gulf Coast refineries.

The State Department’s new report noted two major spills in South Dakota involving the original Keystone pipeline, which went into operation in 2010, but added that TransCanada has a lower overall spill rate than average in the oil pipeline industry.

Yellowstone welcomes 940,000 visitors in July

NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) — The National Park Service says more than 940,000 people visited Yellowstone National Park in July, which is typically the park’s busiest month for recreation visits.

The number is down about 2 percent from the 962,000 visits recorded in July 2017 but is still the fifth busiest July on record at the nation’s first national park. August is normally the second busiest month in Yellowstone.

So far in 2018, the park has hosted some 2.3 million visitors, which is up slightly from the same period last year.

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