Rising to the challenge set by the Trump administration’s approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, environmental organizations and Indigenous groups are already firing back with a pair of lawsuits and an energized vow to resist the controversial, 1,700-mile conduit.
“This dirty pipeline is a loaded gun pointed at our climate and some of America’s most vital water supplies, and we won’t let [President Donald] Trump pull the trigger,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), which is part of a coalition of environmental groups that on Thursday filed suit against the Trump administration in the federal district court in Great Falls, Montana.
The suit accuses President Donald Trump’s State Department of relying on an “outdated and incomplete environmental impact statement” in its decision making. Further, according to Reuters, the groups argue that “[b]y approving the pipeline without public input and an up-to-date environmental assessment, the administration violated the National Environmental Policy Act.” Plaintiffs also include Northern Plains Resource Council, Bold Alliance, Friends of the Earth, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Sierra Club.
“This arrogant administration wants to ram this massive pipeline through with zero consideration of oil-spill risks or the immense harm Keystone will do to endangered wildlife,” Suckling added. “But Trump’s alternative facts and contempt for our environment won’t stand up in court.”
“We continue to meet Trump in the streets, and we look forward to meeting him in the courts to stop his reckless agenda that threatens our clean air and water and the climate.”
—Michael Brune, Sierra Club
A separate suit (pdf) filed on Monday by the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) and North Coast Rivers Alliance (NCRA) further contends that Trump’s permit violates the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. The groups are seeking injunctive relief, restraining pipeline company TransCanada from taking any action that would harm the “physical environment in connection with the project pending a full hearing on the merits.”
“Because President Trump has turned his back on the Native American community and protection of our clean water, endangered fisheries, and indeed, survival of the Planet itself, we have asked the federal courts to order him to comply with our nation’s environmental laws,” said attorney Stephan Volker. “We are confident that the courts will apply and enforce the law fairly and faithfully, and protect our irreplaceable natural heritage from the risky and unneeded KXL pipeline.”
IEN executive director Tom Goldtooth said that Trump “is breaking established environmental laws and treaties in his efforts to force through the Keystone XL pipeline.”
“Indigenous peoples’ lands and waters are not here to be America’s environmental sacrifice zone,” he continued. “For too long, the U.S. government has pushed around Indigenous peoples and undervalued our inherent rights, sovereignty, culture, and our responsibilities as guardians of Mother Earth and all life while fueling catastrophic extreme weather and climate change with an addiction to fossil fuels. The time has come to keep fossil fuels in the ground and shut down risky extreme energy projects like the tar sands that are poisoning our families, wildlife, water sources and destroying our climate.”
“Indigenous peoples’ lands and waters are not here to be America’s environmental sacrifice zone.”
— Tom Goldtooth,Indigenous Environmental Network
The lawsuits are just part of a larger strategy to defeat the pipeline. “This project is going to be fought at every turn,” 350.og co-founder Bill McKibben, who was one of the early organizers of anti-KXL protests, told the Atlantic this week.
In addition to the pending lawsuits, journalist Robinson Meyer reports on the mounting roadblocks for the pipeline’s approval:
The clearest hurdle is that the state of Nebraska has still not approved a path for Keystone XL. TransCanada, the corporation leading the project, has submitted three different possible routes for the pipeline, but the state’s Public Service Commission has yet to approve any of them. According to activists, more than 100 people have filed to formally intervene against the pipeline’s proposed routes.
Further, a divestment campaign and a series of resistance camps along the path of the pipeline, similar to those that sprang up in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline, are being planned ahead of next month’s massive climate mobilization, the People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C. on April 29.
“We continue to meet Trump in the streets, and we look forward to meeting him in the courts to stop his reckless agenda that threatens our clean air and water and the climate,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.
“He was defeated—twice—when he tried implementing a Muslim ban,” Brune continued, “he was defeated when he tried to take health care away from 24 million Americans, and he will be defeated once again as he tries to force this pipeline on the people who have already seen its rejection. This movement has already defeated the Keystone XL pipeline, and we will do so once again.”