Aug. 16 (UPI) -- A timeline for new environmental review is necessary for a revised leg of the Keystone XL oil pipeline before construction begins next year, a court ordered.
The U.S. District Court of the District of Montana's Great Falls division ruled that TransCanada and the U.S. State Department must supplement a 2014 environmental impact statement on the Keystone XL pipeline to include a route revision ordered by the Nebraska Public Service Commission.
The pipeline's progress was stimulated when U.S. President Donald Trump took office last year and used the power of the executive office to facilitate North American oil and gas infrastructure.
Referencing long-standing concerns about the Sandhills region in Nebraska, some of which were the source of legal battles, regulators on the Nebraska Public Service Commission sided against the preferred route for Keystone XL and instead voted for an alternate route that allayed ecological concerns.
The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality published a report more than three years ago on the need to avoid the Sandhills area. The state PSC said parts of the pipeline would be exposed and therefore vulnerable if TransCanada built the $8 billion pipeline through the region as planned.
TransCanada argued the original impact statement was sufficient enough to proceed without a revision concerning the PSC's alternate route. In a case pitting environmental and indigenous groups against the U.S. State Department and TransCanada, the court ordered defendants to add to the original impact statement to include the new route.
"TransCanada has represented to the court that construction of the pipeline will not begin until the second quarter of 2019," the ruling read. "The court directs federal defendants to file a proposed schedule to supplement the EIS in a manner that allows appropriate review before TransCanada's planned construction activities."
Defendants had no public statement on the court order.
Proposed more than a decade ago, opponents of the Keystone XL oil pipeline said it was time for TransCanada to abandon the effort as even executive action by President Trump hasn't facilitated the construction process.
"This proposed project has been stalled for nearly a decade because it would be all risk and no reward, and despite the Trump administration's efforts, they cannot force this dirty tar sands pipeline on the American people," Sierra Club attorney Doug Hayes said in a statement. "It's time for TransCanada to give up on their Keystone XL pipe dream."
A decision drafted in 2015 by the State Department under U.S. President Barack Obama said there were questions about the necessity for additional North American pipeline capacity given uncertainties about the future growth of Canadian oil sands production.