Ponca Corn Harvest and Land Deeding Ceremony on the Tanderup Farm. (Photo: Alex Matzke)


Keystone XL Still Faces Court Challenges from Tribal Nations, Landowners & Environmental Groups

Lincoln, NE – Despite TC Energy’s recent submission to a federal court of a proposed pre-construction and construction schedule for its yet-to-be-greenlighted Keystone XL pipeline, there still remain many obstacles before any construction on the controversial project could begin — including three ongoing lawsuits filed by Tribal Nations, landowners’, conservation and environmental groups, and continued opposition by landowners fighting eminent domain in Nebraska.

Northern Plains Resource Council et al. v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

In a federal lawsuit filed in July 2019, landowners’ groups Bold Alliance and Northern Plains Resource Council joined Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, and Friends of the Earth in challenging the legality of several federal approvals that Keystone XL needs before it can be built. The lawsuit argues that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to evaluate the pipeline’s devastating effects on people, wildlife, and the environment, including to hundreds of rivers, streams and wetlands, before issuing permits, which it must do under our bedrock environmental laws. Oral arguments on these issues have been scheduled for March 6, 2020 at the U.S. District Court in Great Falls, MT.

Indigenous Environmental Network & North Coast Rivers Alliance v. Donald Trump & TC Energy

Rosebud Sioux Tribe v. Donald Trump & TC Energy

Two additional federal lawsuits have been filed challenging Trump’s approval of the cross-border permit for Keystone XL. A lawsuit by the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) and North Coast Rivers Alliance challenges the unilateral permit for Keystone XL. Meanwhile, a challenge brought by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Fort Belknap Indian Community and the Native American Rights Fund also seeks to invalidate the project’s cross-border permit and argues that Trump cannot approve, and TC Energy cannot build, a pipeline that will pass through tribal territory and water supplies without abiding by tribal law and treaties. On Jan. 17, 2019, the U.S. District Court in Montana ruled against motions to dismiss these lawsuits, which will now move forward to the merits.

In June 2019, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed two earlier legal challenges to Keystone XL, ruling they were no longer active due to President Trump’s revocation of the permit at the center of the cases. In March, Trump issued a new “presidential” permit for Keystone XL, in an effort to spur construction of the pipeline.

Previously, a federal district court in Montana determined the environmental review for the pipeline was incomplete and blocked construction until the government revised its analysis. It was widely reported that President Trump took the extraordinary step of issuing a new permit to undermine the Montana court’s decision.

These legal challenges to Keystone XL respond to the Trump Administration’s efforts to circumvent our nation’s environmental safeguards and avoid the government’s legal duty to consider the potential impacts of Keystone XL. And as has occurred many times since the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline was proposed 11 years ago, efforts by TC Energy—and later by the Trump Administration—to create shortcuts and circumvent legal processes have ultimately led to more delay.

Eleven years after first proposing the project, TC Energy has still not yet confirmed financial support from investors with the issuance of a “Final Investment Decision” for Keystone XL.


“For a decade we have stopped the Keystone XL pipeline from risking our land, water and climate. It’s unconscionable that Trump’s Republican Party supports a foreign government using eminent domain on family farmers and ranchers. We are not backing down. Our feet are firmly planted on the land we intend to protect with everything we have,” said Jane Kleeb, Bold Nebraska founder.

“We know the playbook of Trump’s fossil fueled agenda and we continue to resist it. This latest move only emoldens our steadfast movement of climate activists, Indigenous communities, landowners and farmers to escalate our movement to stop this climate wrecking pipeline. We have blocked the Keystone XL pipeline from being built for 11 years and we will continue this resistance. Only by stopping pipelines like Keystone XL, and until we stop all fossil fuel infrastructure, will we actually achieve the kind of just transition that we need,” said Kendall Mackey, 350.org US Campaign Manager.

“To ignore the rights of tribes and reservation residents is a blasphemous act. It is not preserving the water or the rights of Indigenous and Native people of this state and those downstream. We will continue to stand in solidarity to protect our water, the rights of all indigenous people here and along the Keystone XL project,” said Joye Braun, Frontline Community Organizer with Indigenous Environmental Network.

“Donald Trump and TC Energy may tout every bit of news as a major victory, but the truth remains that numerous major obstacles remain for this dirty and dangerous project, not to mention a broad coalition of people all over the country fighting back,” said Doug Hayes, attorney for the Sierra Club. “It’s been over a decade and the Keystone XL pipeline hasn’t been built, and we will not stop until this pipeline is permanently defeated.”

“The Trump administration is continuing its agenda of promoting dirty fossil fuel consumption by pushing Keystone XL forward without an adequate consideration of the project’s devastating environmental impacts,” said Jared Margolis, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We will continue to fight Keystone XL to protect people and wildlife from this climate-killing disaster.”

“This dangerous, Canadian tar sands pipeline threatens clean water for farmers, ranchers, and tribal communities across Montana,” said Dena Hoff, Glendive, MT farmer and Northern Plains Resource Council member. “We will continue to use all the tools of democracy to ensure that the safety of our water and climate are protected from this irresponsible project. We fully expect continued success in that effort, despite the Trump Administration’s repeated attempts to ignore the law.”

“Despite Trump Administration’s continued attempts to force this tar sands pipeline through, Keystone XL remains a threat to our lands, waters and climate,” said Anthony Swift, Director of NRDC’s Canada Project. “NRDC and our partners will continue to fight this illegal attempt to force the pipeline’s construction.”

Background on active Keystone XL litigation: