Native Groups Successfully Halt Trump's Keystone Pipeline, For Now

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

A challenge from Native American and environmental groups successfully halted construction of the Keystone Pipeline, at least for now, with a Montana judge ruling in their favor late Thursday night.

Judge Brian Morris of the U.S. District Court in Montana ruled that the Trump administration’s rushed attempt to approve the pipeline violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. Morris concluded that until the State Department completes a thorough report that addresses the concerns brought first by the Native and environmentalist groups, all construction on the Keystone Pipeline is to be stopped.


This is a major win for the tribes most directly affected by the pipeline, the Lakota and the Oceti Sakowin, as well as citizens of the states Keystone was set to pipe oil through—Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. It is, however, temporary, as the State Department and TransCanada (the group in charge of pipeline construction) are likely to either appeal the ruling or simply follow the judge’s instructions and redo their original hollow environmental and cultural studies.

Tom Goldtooth, executive director for the Indigenous Environmental Network, said in a statement after the ruling:

This is a win for Lakota, the Oceti Sakowin and other Tribal Nations, for the water, and for the sacredness of Mother Earth. This decision vindicates what we have been saying all along: Trump’s approval of this pipeline was illegal, violated environmental laws and was based upon fake facts. Our legal fight has been for the benefit of all life along the proposed route of this Canadian tar sands pipeline. This pipeline is the enemy of the people and life as we know it. It must be stopped. We will continue our prayers to take action to fight the Trump administration in defense of the sacred, to protect Indigenous rights, to defend our treaty territories and to advocate for the continuation of the next seven generations of life on Mother Earth free from fossil fuels.


If you don’t remember, because everything happens every day now, the pipeline was initially put on ice by President Barack Obama in 2015. Then, in January 2017, President Donald Trump decided to move forward with construction, signing an executive order that undid Obama’s efforts to block it.

Native groups initially fought its construction because the proposed path of the pipeline was slated to run through tribal burial grounds and other important historic sites. Environmentalists opposed it for its contributions both to furthering American reliance on oil as well as the potential for a massive oil spill and another environmental catastrophe—the Keystone pipeline has already busted once, spilling over 400,000 gallons of oil onto land in South Dakota in November 2017. TransCanada initially reported the spill to be half that size, then, when the numbers were updated in January 2018, told news outlets all was well because they had replaced the topsoil.


So, in an attempt to put a stop to what felt like a bum-rushed attempt by the Trump administration and TransCanada to cash in on an extension of that same pipeline, the Indigenous Environmental Network, North Coast River Alliance, and the Northern Plains Resource Council sued them and, for the time being, won.

You can read the full decision from Morris below: