- The same U.S. District Court judge for the District of Montana who halted construction of the approximately $8 billion Canada-to-Nebraska Keystone XL Pipeline is allowing owner TransCanada Corp. to continue certain preconstruction activities, according to the Associated Press, after hearing arguments during a telephone conference on Wednesday.
- In a motion requesting that the court amend or clarify its original order, attorneys for TransCanada argued that preliminary work such as construction planning, project development, permit application, landowner contacts and surveying had no "irreparable consequences and are unrelated to the purported deficiencies” outlined in the Nov. 8 order that stopped the project. Further, TransCanada representatives said not being able to perform this work would "impose substantial and irreparable harm on TransCanada” and others. The defendant said, for example, 700 jobs would be at immediate risk and that it could miss the 2019 construction season if the injunction is not amended. A TransCanada spokesman told BNN Bloomberg that a delay could cost the company almost U.S. $950 million of earnings and sideline the hiring of about 6,600 workers.
- The U.S. Department of State, also a defendant in the case, said it will be able to publish a final supplemental review for the project, as required by the court, sometime in December. This could clear the way for TransCanada to restart construction in mid-February.
In the Nov. 8 order that halted work on the project, the judge said that the State Department’s original review was not thorough enough and ordered the agency to provide a supplement to its 2014 Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, one that fully complies with the National Environmental Protection Act and the Administrative Procedure Act and that includes a "full and fair discussion” of the potential effects of the project.
Other pipeline projects have also experienced a few obstacles this year. In August, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission temporarily stopped construction on both the $4.6 billion Mountain Valley Pipeline and the $7 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline due to permitting and right-of-way issues. Both of those projects were offline for no more than a month before being able to resume work.
Some state regulators in the Appalachian states have tightened up regulations involving pipeline development, a move that could delay or prevent future pipeline projects. This push is a result of energy companies allegedly violating existing environmental regulations.
For example, according to a report from Reuters, pipeline company Energy Transfer and its Sunoco subsidiary have amassed more than 800 state and federal permit violations on two fast-tracked natural gas pipeline projects — the $4.2 billion Energy Transfer Rover and the $2.5 billion Sunoco Mariner East 2 through Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. Violations include drilling fluid spills, sinkholes appearing on residential property and improper disposal of hazardous waste. In total, fines for the two pipelines have exceeded $15 million.