The Trump administration opened the door for construction of the first portion of the Keystone XL pipeline through Montana Wednesday, although the project still faces legal hurdles in federal court.
U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt announced that he authorized the Bureau of Land Management to offer a right-of-way for developer TC Energy to start construction across 44 miles of federal lands in Montana.
The pipeline still requires approval of three additional federal agencies, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Energy and the Department of Agriculture.
Those agencies must make decisions about other rights-of-way, impacts at Fort Peck, expanding power substations and energy gird and building power lines.
TC Energy, formerly TransCanada, is seeking to move oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, through the proposed pipeline and connect to an existing terminal in Nebraska.
The line would run about 1,209 miles, including through eastern Montana.
The Fort Belknap and Rosebud Sioux tribes have filed suit in federal court , arguing that the Trump administration has violated treaty rights by approving the pipeline over tribal lands.
A second suit, filed by environmental groups, argues that the Trump administration failed to conduct a comprehensive environmental study of the pipeline's impacts before granting a permit.
The Keystone XL pipeline was first proposed more than a decade ago and has been hung up in the courts ever since.