Federal attorneys defend Keystone pipeline


Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont.

Trump administration attorneys Thursday defended the disputed Keystone XL oil-sands pipeline in federal court against environmentalists and Native American groups that want to derail the project.

President Barack Obama rejected the 1,179-mile line proposed by TransCanada Corp. in 2015 because of its potential to exacerbate climate change.

President Donald Trump revived the project soon after taking office last year, citing its potential to create jobs and advance energy independence.

Environmentalists and Native American groups sued to stop the line and asked U.S. District Judge Brian Morris to halt the project. They and others, including landowners, are worried about spills that could foul groundwater and the pipeline’s impacts to their property rights.

Morris did not immediately rule after a four-hour hearing Thursday in federal court in Great Falls.

U.S. government attorneys asserted that Trump’s change in course from Obama’s focus on climate change reflected a legitimate shift in policy, not an arbitrary rejection of previous studies of the project.

“While the importance of climate change was considered, the interests of energy security and economic development outweighed those concerns,” the attorneys recently wrote.

Morris previously rejected a bid by the administration to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that Trump had constitutional authority over the pipeline as a matter of national security.

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