Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, August 25, 2020


Jared Margolis, Center for Biological Diversity, (802) 310-4054,
Gabby Brown, Sierra Club, (914) 261-4626,
Jake Thompson, NRDC, (301) 602-3627,
Aisha Dukule, Friends of the Earth, (202) 893-3502,
Mark Hefflinger, Bold Alliance, (323) 972-5192,

TC Energy Warned That Construction of Keystone XL Poses Unlawful Harm to Endangered Species

SAN FRANCISCO— Conservation groups filed a supplemental notice letter today warning TC Energy that construction of the Keystone XL pipeline must not continue while analysis of the harm to imperiled wildlife remains incomplete.

Regulators have acknowledged that construction of Keystone XL will adversely affect the habitat of the iconic American burying beetle in Nebraska and South Dakota. Despite this TC Energy is pressing forward with construction, even before it has received a permit for “take” of the beetles, which requires development of a habitat conservation plan and consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Endangered Species Act specifically prevents construction activities from moving forward before this process is complete.

“Keystone XL poses catastrophic threats to imperiled species, including destruction of habitat from construction activities and oil spills,” said Jared Margolis, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Yet despite the failure to comply with the law, TC Energy and the Trump administration keep pushing this climate-killing menace.”

The notice letter was filed on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council, Friends of the Earth, the Sierra Club and Bold Alliance.

The letter also states that the Bureau of Land Management has failed to complete a valid consultation on the impacts of Keystone XL on imperiled species from oil spills, which is the subject of separate litigation by the conservation groups.

“A federal court previously found Keystone XL's Presidential Permit and the Nationwide Permit it tried to proceed under violated the Endangered Species Act, yet here it is again,” said Eric Huber, Sierra Club managing attorney. “TransCanada should stop this ill-conceived project that threatens water and wildlife throughout its route.”

Today’s notice letter notes that the Bureau’s own spill risk assessment acknowledges that there are likely to be numerous spills in several species’ habitats throughout the life of the Keystone XL project, yet it failed to undertake formal consultation to assess the impacts of spills to imperiled wildlife. The Fish and Wildlife Service provided no additional analysis of the impacts of oil spills on listed species, rendering the consultation completely inadequate. Without a proper analysis and mitigation under the Endangered Species Act, construction would result in unlawful harm to endangered species, such as whooping cranes, pallid sturgeon, American burying beetles and piping plovers.

“Not only will Keystone XL worsen the climate crisis, poison waters and threaten communities along its route, it will drive wildlife closer to the brink of extinction,” said Marcie Keever, legal director at Friends of the Earth. “With all oil operations, the question isn’t if there will be another oil spill, it’s when. We will continue to fight this dangerous and destructive project to protect people, endangered species and the planet.”

In the next phase of construction, TC Energy intends to build pipe-storage yards, work camps and pump stations across Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. The notice letter states that such construction will not only result in direct impacts on species and habitats, but also undermine the consultation process by solidifying the placement of the project. This will skew the agencies’ analysis and decision-making regarding the project. The planned construction activities violate Endangered Species Act requirements by ignoring available measures or alternatives — such as potentially less-harmful routes — that would minimize and mitigate the impacts of the project.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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