The U.S. Department of Interior on Jan. 22 signed off on a section of the Keystone XL pipeline that will pass through 44 miles of federally-managed land in Montana.
Canada-based TC Energy won the right-of-way to build a portion of its 1,200-mile pipeline across Bureau of Land Management land in Montana.
Tribes involved in an ongoing legal challenge to the Keystone XL pipeline maintain this latest development changes nothing in their lawsuit.
Natalie Landreth represents the Fort Belknap Indian Community in Montana and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota.
“BLM or any federal agency issuing any piece of a permit simply does one thing at this point in time, which is it’s going to make them a new defendant in this lawsuit,” Landreth said.
The tribes are suing TC Energy on the basis that the proposed crude oil pipeline violates land rights treaties established in the mid-19th century.
In December, A U.S. judge in Montana ruled tribal and environmental lawsuits against the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline could go forward.
If built, the pipeline would enter the United States through Phillips County in northeastern Montana.
Phillips County Commissioner Richard Dunbar says he’s thrilled the project is finally moving forward.
“We do have a gas field up here and a lot of our property tax money we get from the gas field, we’re only getting ten percent of what we got prior to 2010, so our budgets are tight. So once this goes through and we increase that property tax base, it’ll be huge for the county,” Dunbar explained.
The pipeline would also cross through Valley, McCone, Dawson, Prairie and Fallon Counties in northeastern Montana.
According to court documents, TC Energy plans to begin pre-construction work in February in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. It hopes to begin building a mile-long segment across the U.S. - Canada border in April.