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Montana Attorney General Wants Ruling On Presidential Permit In Keystone XL Case

Keystone XL pipeline sections sit on a train near Glendive, Mont.
Keystone XL pipeline sections sit on a train near Glendive, Mont.

Montana leaders who have for months been pushing Pres. Joe Biden to give the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline the greenlight are taking stock after last Wednesday’s announcement that the developer is ending the project after more than a decade of controversy.

Montana’s Austin Knudsen was one of 21 attorneys general to sue President Joe Biden in March, and he says some parts of the lawsuit may not be over.

“I want a solid ruling from a federal court or a federal appeals court, whatever the case may be, that the president does or does not have this constitutional power to reach back and issue this kind of latitude over international and interstate commerce,” Knudsen said.

Biden in January revoked a border crossing permit former-Pres. Donald Trump had granted the pipeline’s Canadian developer, TC Energy.

Some Native American activists like Angeline Cheek, who’s Dakota-Lakota of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes, are celebrating.

Cheek says it gives her relief to know TC Energy is withdrawing from northern Montana, where it had begun pre-construction last spring.

“And I kinda knew that it was a for sure thing and all you can do is hope that it will never come up again,” Cheek said.

Montana’s congressional leadership who lauded the pipeline as a way to bring jobs and tax dollars to rural northeast Montana sent out statements expressing their disappointment shortly after TC Energy announced the cancellation publicly.

Both Democratic Sen. Jon Tester and Republican Sen. Steve Daines attempted to pass legislation to approve the pipeline through Congress citing the project’s expected jobs and tax dollars for northeast Montana counties, but efforts either failed or stalled during the process. YPR followed up Thursday morning with questions about next steps and how the announcement affects leadership’s efforts to develop the pipeline.

A spokesperson with Sen. Tester emailed YPR that the senator would work with Montana’s northern counties to find opportunities to create jobs and support local governments.

Spokespeople for Sen. Daines and Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale did not answer YPR’s emailed questions by this story’s deadline. Daines is a co-sponsor on a bill introduced last Wednesday requiring an estimate of the number of jobs lost due to the permit revocation.

The presidential order cancelling the permit says keeping it in place would be inconsistent with the Biden Administration's economic and climate goals. Biden has prioritized lowering emissions, increasing renewable energy development and slowing climate change.

A spokesperson with Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte emailed YPR saying that Biden’s permit withdrawal forced TC Energy to cancel the pipeline, and that the governor will work with the affected Montana communities.

Kayla writes about energy policy, the oil and gas industry and new electricity developments.