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Keystone XL pipeline developer again asks judge to allow pre-construction work

Posted at 9:31 AM, Jan 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-15 11:31:45-05

GREAT FALLS – The Canadian company behind the Keystone XL pipeline is again asking a federal judge for permission to start pre-construction of the project.

Attorneys for TransCanada Corp. appeared in U.S. District Court on Monday to request that construction of worker camps and pipe yards be allowed to go forward after they were halted in December.

On November 8, U.S. District Judge Brian Morris ordered all construction to stop, with the exception of some pre-construction activities, until a full environmental review is completed. In December, Morris clarified that order and blocked all physical construction.

TransCanada has appealed that decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but now the company is asking to continue work during the appeal process.

TransCanada argued that construction of worker camps and pipe yards along with moving pipe into those yards, were out of the court’s jurisdiction because that work was happening on private lands, under private leases, with permits from local governments.

Attorneys for the Northern Plains Resource Council, which sued to block the project, argued that construction of the camps should not continue because they are directly related to the federal permit for the pipeline and that the work should also be subject to environmental review.

Lawyers for the Billings-based Northern Plains also expressed concern that the construction of camps and yards could create “bureaucratic momentum,” influencing the ultimate permit decision and limiting alternative options.

TransCanada said it is still trying to salvage the 2019 construction season. If pre-construction is allowed to begin by Feb. 1, workers could begin construction of the pipeline as early as June. If pre-construction was granted by March 15, pipeline work could begin in August.

Morris has not yet ruled on the matter.

-Joe Huisinga reporting for MTN News