Conservation, Landowners Groups File Opening Brief in Legal Challenge to Keystone XL Pipeline

Illegal pipeline approval violated NEPA, Clean Water Act, and ESA

Jonathon Berman, Sierra Club, 

Jared Margolis, Center for Biological Diversity, (802) 310-4054, 

Jake Thompson, NRDC, (202) 289-2387, 

Patrick Davis, Friends of the Earth, (202) 222-0744, 

Mark Hefflinger, Bold Alliance, (323) 972-5192, 

Great Falls, MT— Conservation and landowners groups filed their opening brief today in their federal lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s illegal approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The groups are suing the Army Corps of Engineers over its failure to adequately analyze the project’s effects on local waterways, lands, wildlife, and communities along its 1,200-mile route. 

The filing comes in the wake of yet another massive pipeline spill from the Keystone pipeline system TC Energy is hoping to expand with Keystone XL. Reports this week reveal that this latest spill, which leaked more than 380,000 gallons of tar sands into a North Dakota wetland, affected almost 10 times as much land as originally reported.

Late last year, the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana ruled that the Trump administration violated bedrock environmental laws by issuing a permit for Keystone XL without adequately evaluating critical information on the pipeline’s environmental impacts, including tar sands oil spills and climate change. Today’s brief makes the case that the Army Corps’ streamlined permitting process for oil pipelines - called “Nationwide Permit 12” - and its use of that process for the Keystone XL pipeline suffers from similar flaws, allowing Keystone XL to be constructed through hundreds of rivers, streams, and wetlands without proper evaluation of the project’s impacts, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act. 

“This latest spill from the Keystone pipeline highlights yet again the recklessness of giving TC Energy free rein to run dirty tar sands through hundreds of waterways,” said Sierra Club Senior Attorney Doug Hayes. “The Army Corps' refusal to consider the risks this pipeline poses to wildlife and clean water isn't just irresponsible - it's illegal." 

“Pipeline spills are clearly inevitable, yet the Corps has fast-tracked pipeline construction and failed to ensure that Keystone XL and other pipelines won’t devastate waters that people and species rely on,” said Jared Margolis, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Keystone XL is an environmental nightmare waiting to happen, and we must continue to fight Trump’s attempt to ram this dirty fossil fuel project down America’s throat.”

“Trump’s push to streamline permits for the dangerous Keystone XL pipeline is both outrageous and unlawful,” said Hallie Templeton, interim legal director at Friends of the Earth. “As evidenced by the pipeline’s recent spill in North Dakota, this is a major project that will devastate frontline communities, our environment, and protected species. Ensuring comprehensive environmental reviews prior to permitting the pipeline – as required by law – will check Trump’s ongoing corruption.”

“Given all the risks of tar sands spills in our waterways, our nation must uphold the laws and processes in place to protect our natural resources. The courts are our last line of defense as laws are ignored by the Trump administration,” said Jane Kleeb, Bold Alliance founder.

“The Keystone XL pipeline is a clear threat to healthy land and clean water for farming, ranching, rural, and tribal communities in Montana and beyond, as witnessed by the recent spill suffered by our neighbors in North Dakota,” said Dena Hoff, Northern Plains member and Glendive, Montana farmer. “Given how irresponsible Canadian pipeline owner TC Energy has been with existing legs of Keystone, all Americans should be concerned by these illegal efforts to ram through permits for an even larger pipeline without proper risk analysis.”

“The latest Keystone debacle in North Dakota underscores a grim truth: pipelines spill. And when they inevitably do, our land, water and health are put at risk,” said Cecilia Segal, attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “That’s why we’re calling on the courts to stop the proposed Keystone XL tar sand pipeline once and for all.”

About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.5 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit