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Keystone Pipeline gets green light from State Department

The controversial pipeline lurches that much closer to construction.

A 2017 activist opposing the Keystone XL pipeline may see new cause for protest. CREDIT: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / GETTY
A 2017 activist opposing the Keystone XL pipeline may see new cause for protest. CREDIT: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / GETTY

With backing from the White House, it seemed only a matter of time before the State Department officially signed off on the revised route for the maligned Keystone XL pipeline.

On Friday, the State Department released a report on the proposed route, effectively agreeing with proponents that the environmental risks from the pipeline are minimal. As Reuters reported, the 340-page report concluded that the pipeline would likely have no effect on the groundwater along the route, even in the result of a spill. Citing “prompt cleanup response,” the report claimed that any “contaminated soils” would be handled before the oil reached groundwater.

The report resulted from a ruling from a federal judge in Montana last month, who ordered the State Department to conduct its own review of the route.

Long one of the most controversial of the planned pipelines in North America, the Keystone XL line — which would cost about $8 billion to construct, running nearly 1,200 miles — will probably begin construction in 2019. Former president Barack Obama blocked construction in 2015, citing environmental concerns.

But protesters likely won’t roll over in the face of the new report, and may well reprise the anti-pipeline protest tactics seen in 2016. That being the case, the federal government, Fortune reported, is “preparing an aggressive tactical response in anticipation” of protests, even including “mass-arrest procedures.”

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And the legal fight against the pipeline hasn’t stopped: A pair of Native American communities — the Fort Belknap Indian Community of Montana and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota — recently sued the Trump administration, claiming a breach of treaty. The tribes also cite concerns about spills — a concern the State Department report will do little to quell.