Lawmakers from Keystone XL Pipeline states asked President Donald Trump on Friday to double down getting the court-stalled Canadian project to construction.
The request comes four days after a federal judge in Montana ordered all pre-construction along Keystone’s path to cease. Judge Brian Morris had previously shut down the project for further environmental study, but waited until Dec. 7 to determine whether developer TransCanada could keep stocking pipe, building work camps and locating equipment along the Keystone route. In November, Morris blocked President Trump’s permit for Keystone, which had been denied in 2015 by then-President Barack Obama.
“The Keystone XL pipeline will bring nearly 6,600 high paying jobs in the near-term and nearly $4 billion in new capital investment next year alone,” the lawmakers said in their letter to Trump. “In fact, pre-construction activities enjoined by the recent federal court decision are leaving nearly 700 jobs for hardworking Americans in the balance.”
The signers are members of the Congressional and Senate Western Caucuses, whose 17 senators and 27 representatives advocate for the pro-energy policy.
U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., is president of the Senate group. Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., was also among the signers.
Lawmakers didn’t specify what they thought Trump’s next move should be, instead urging the president to take "any immediate action necessary to move construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline forward."
Trump and TransCanada both said last month they were still committed to the pipeline. The State Department does have the option of taking Morris’s ruling against the Keystone permit to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. But time to appeal is running out. The lower court’s Nov. 8 ruling starts the timer for a 60 day appeal window.
Saturday, a State Department spokesperson issued the following statement: "We have reviewed the Order issued by the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana on November 8, 2018. The U.S. Department of State intends to prepare a new Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). Due to ongoing litigation, we have no further comment at this time."
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit didn't want to publicly speculate Friday about the Trump administration's next move.
Several conservation groups and American Indian tribes have sued over environmental and cultural concerns along the 1,179-mile Keystone route from Montana to Nebraska.
Before the Morris ruling in November, there was movement on the Keystone route. McCone County Commissioner Janet Wolff said the crews were doing road work to get to Keystone pumping station sites and the pipeline.
Wolff said she thinks the pipeline will be built eventually, but when is anyone’s guess.
In Prairie County, TransCanada was upgrading local government roads to handle the wear and tear of pipeline traffic, Commissioner Todd Devlin said. The company had also posted a $2 million bond to cover any unforeseen damage.
“A month or so ago, they were finishing up their haul roads, grading roads, replacing culverts, and we were getting word from our constituency, that’s the farmers in that area, that they were doing a really good job,” Devlin said.
Montana has the longest stretch of the Keystone XL route of any state. The counties along the route have responded favorably to Keystone XL because in most cases it will at least triple the local tax base.
However, the Keystone talk has gone on for a decade.