A federal judge in Montana halted construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline on Thursday on the grounds that the USA government did not complete a full analysis of the environmental impact of the TransCanada project.
U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris, of Montana, issued a 54-page ruling that boiled down to a simple message: Facts matter.
Thursday's decision does not permanently block a federal permit for Keystone XL, a project of the Calgary-based firm TransCanada. "We remain committed to building this important energy infrastructure project", the company said in an emailed statement.
Environmentalists and tribal groups cheered the ruling by a USA district judge in Montana, while President Donald Trump called it "a political decision" and "a disgrace".
The court has asked the government to review its assessment and revise it, taking into account the changes in the oil markets since 2014, the latest in climate change, and the presence of "cultural resources" along the route of the pipeline that was planned to carry heavy oil from Alberta to US refineries.
Morris ruled the Trump administration "jumped the gun" by pushing forward with the pipeline despite concerns over damage to native American heritage and the resulting release of greenhouse gases. The Obama administration stalled the project, only for Trump to revive it.
Jauss said a lengthy appellate process could delay TransCanada's goal of beginning construction next year. "We have said our preference would be Canadian pipelines to Canadian tidewater, but at the same time this absolutely represents a number of jobs, we're fairly intertwined with the USA and Houston area, the refineries there".
The Obama administration approved the southern leg of the pipeline that began operations in January 2014, easing a bottleneck between Cushing, Oklahoma, and refineries on Texas' Gulf Coast.
In 2015, on the eve of the worldwide climate talks in Paris, the Obama administration appeared to bring an end to the seven-year-long saga when it announced it was halting construction of the pipeline, arguing that approval would compromise the country's effort to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
The ruling in Montana against Keystone XL is "eerily similar" to the Federal Court of Appeals ruling against the Trans Mountain pipeline, according to Chris Bloomer, Canadian Energy Pipelines Association president and CEO.
"Today's ruling makes it clear once and for all that it's time for TransCanada to give up on their Keystone XL pipe dream", Sierra Club senior attorney Doug Hayes said.
The ruling is a major victory for environmentalist groups that sued to stop the project and for the Native American tribes that have protested against it for years.
The latest ruling follows the court's previous decision in August to require the State Department to also conduct a supplemental environmental impact statement on a new route through Nebraska.
"This is a win for Lakota, the Oceti Sakowin and other Tribal Nations, for the water, and for the sacredness of Mother Earth", Tom Goldtooth, executive director for the Indigenous Environmental Network, said in astatement.