Center for Biological Diversity Sues Trump State Dept. for Covering up Keystone XL Documents

(EnviroNews DC News Bureau) — Washington D.C. — The U.S. Department of State (State Department) has been “illegally” stashing away key documents pertaining to the slated path of the Keystone XL Pipeline (KXL) for years, while concealing contracts the Department entered into with private consultants, opponents of KXL said on Thursday in a legal action. The allegations were levied by non-profit conservation group the Center for Biological Diversity (the Center), and Thomas Bachand, creator of the Keystone Mapping Project, in a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. on May 18, 2017.

Since 2012, the plaintiffs have submitted “numerous” Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, according to the suit. The court filing alleges that the State Department “is unlawfully withholding information.”

“The Keystone XL GIS [location] data is referenced tens of thousands of times in the State Department’s environmental review, yet the data itself is fully redacted,” Bachand said in a statement. “State Department officials claim they do not have the data, but if that’s the case then how can they have possibly considered its environmental consequences? The truth is that the State Department unquestionably possesses and controls this critical information.”

“We can’t fully understand Keystone XL’s threats to our water and wildlife until the Trump Administration releases public documents about this dangerous pipeline’s route,” said Amy Atwood, the Center’s Endangered Species Legal Director, in a press release. “With the State Department illegally refusing to provide information about a leak-prone pipeline that could pollute hundreds of waterways, we’re left with no option but to sue.”

The hotly contested project, which was first proposed in 2008, appeared to be dead when the Obama Administration formally denied a permit for construction on Nov. 6, 2015. Two months after taking office, President Donald Trump rescinded that decision and granted the permit on March 24, 2017.

Native Americans call the pipeline the “black snake” and oppose the project out of fear of what a leak could do to water sources along its route – including the giant Ogallala Aquifer – a water source spanning eight states and providing potable H2O to millions of Americans. During the eight-year battle against the pipeline, some ranchers and landowners joined the protest as well, and environmental groups sought legal remedies to prevent construction.

With Trump’s controversial green-light executive order, the fight has been reignited. In Nebraska, 90 farmers and landowners are taking their argument to the state’s Public Service Commission. Environmentalists and Native Americans in Montana have sued to stop construction. And in South Dakota, Republican farmers are fighting back as well.

John Harter, a cattle rancher in South Dakota, told The Guardian in a video, “You have a company like TransCanada come in and tell you that they are going to take your land and use it to make millions of dollars with it and virtually pay you nothing for it.”

Ironically, TransCanada, the Canadian-based company behind the project, isn’t even sure oil companies still want or need the Keystone XL line. Market conditions have changed since the pipeline was first proposed, and producers now have the option of shipping through the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which is scheduled to enter service on June 1. But all that doesn’t alleviate the concerns of those opposing it.

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