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Trump tries fresh approach with long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump smiles after announcing a permit for TransCanada Corp's Keystone XL oil pipeline while TransCanada Chief Executive Officer Russell Girling (L), U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (C) and Energy Secretary Rick Perry (R) stand beside him in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 24, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

By Timothy Gardner and Eric Beech

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday signed a new permission for TransCanada Corp to build the long-delayed Keystone pipeline for imports of Canadian oil, replacing his previous permits in a fresh attempt to get around the blocking of the $8 billion project by a court in Montana.

In granting the permission in an executive order, Trump revoked a previous permit for the pipeline issued in March 2017 and an executive order approving the project he issued two days after taking office in January that year.

It was not immediately clear whether under the new approval the pipeline, which would carry 800,000 barrels per day of crude from Canada's oil sands to refineries along the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, would have to undergo extensive new environmental reviews.

The Keystone XL pipeline has been pending for more than a decade after environmental reviews and after former President Barack Obama rejected the project saying it would do little to benefit U.S. motorists and would contribute to global warming.

Friday's permission was the latest move in the Trump administration's pursuit of what it calls "energy dominance," or maximizing production of oil, gas and coal for domestic use and exports to allies and trading partners. The administration has rolled back environmental regulations on emissions from power plants and vehicles and opened up federal lands to drilling and mining.

Russ Girling, TransCanada's president and chief executive officer, said in a release that Trump "has been clear that he wants to create jobs and advance U.S. energy security and the Keystone XL pipeline does both of those things."

The pipeline faced numerous legal hurdles after several environmental groups sued the U.S. government over the 2017 presidential permit, and Keystone has been held up in the courts, most recently in Montana.


Judge Brian Morris of the U.S. District Court for Montana blocked construction of the pipeline in November last year.

Morris wrote in his ruling that a U.S. State Department environmental analysis “fell short of a ‘hard look’” at the cumulative effects of greenhouse gas emissions and the impact on Native American land resources.

The head of the Sierra Club green group said Trump was trying to bypass "bedrock" environmental laws for the benefit of a foreign pipeline company. "We will continue to pursue every available avenue to ensure that this pipeline is never built," said Michael Brune, the club's executive director.

Analysts at ClearView Energy Partners said in a note that Trump's new permit might end delays related to further environmental review called for by the court, but that the project still faces hurdles in states it goes through including multiple water quality permits in South Dakota.


(Reporting by Eric Beech and Timothy Gardner in Washington and Nia Williams in Calgary; editing by Marguerita Choy and James Dalgleish)