SAN FRANCISCO— Conservation and environmental groups filed notices today of their intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and the companies behind the Keystone XL pipeline for failing to consider the effects of the pipeline—including likely oil spills--on endangered species, including whooping cranes and pallid sturgeon.
Previously the U.S. District Court in Montana ruled that the Trump administration violated bedrock environmental laws when officials approved a federal permit for the pipeline, including by failing to adequately address the risks of oil spills on listed species.
“The Trump administration continues to ignore the catastrophic impacts of Keystone XL as it attempts to ram this dirty fossil fuel project down America’s throat,” said Eric Glitzenstein, the Center for Biological Diversity’s litigation director. “History shows that oil spills are going to occur, and yet the agencies failed once again to analyze how spills might harm waterways and, subsequently, people and endangered species.”
Despite admitting that multiple oil spills are likely to occur – both large and small – the agencies argue that such events will be infrequent and will have minimal impact on the environment.
Yet spills have been anything but infrequent since President Trump in 2017 cleared the way for the pipeline to be built. That year, a spill from the Keystone I pipeline leaked more than 407,000 gallons of crude oil in South Dakota, and a spill in October 2019 leaked 383,000 gallons of crude.
Notice has also been provided to TC Energy, which recently stated its intention to commence construction activities in April. Without a proper analysis and mitigation under the Endangered Species Act, however, such construction would clearly be unlawful and result in severe harm to endangered species, including not just the crane and sturgeon, but also the American burying beetle, whose habitat falls squarely within the footprint of the project. TC Energy claims it is working on a habitat conservation plan that would mitigate impacts to at least the beetle, but this is far from complete and has not been exposed to any expert and public review. The law flatly prohibits construction in the absence of such review and a finalized conservation plan.
TC Energy intends to begin building a 1.2 mile border-crossing segment in April, followed by construction of access roads to pipeline and pump station sites in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, and a pipeline segment in Nebraska in June.
“The unerasable scar the Keystone XL pipeline will leave along its path will harm our environment for generations,” said Hallie Templeton, interim legal director at Friends of the Earth. “Trump’s push to build this dirty pipeline sets a dangerous precedent for future fossil fuel projects. The government and companies need to abandon this destructive project before they cause any more damage.”