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21 States Sue Biden in Attempt to Revive Keystone Pipeline

Construction on the Keystone XL pipeline was terminated by President Biden the same day he was sworn into office.

A facilities manager at the Keystone facility passes by the pipes that would connect the existing Keystone operation with the new expanded Keystone XL on June 21, 2012.

Twenty-one state attorneys general are suing the Biden administration, alleging that the president exceeded his authority in halting production of the Keystone XL pipeline by executive order earlier this year.

The lawsuit, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, was filed on Wednesday at a federal district court in Texas. The suit argues that Biden does not have the authority to halt the pipeline project through executive order, and that only legislation passed by Congress can create such a decree.

“Revocation of the Keystone XL pipeline permit is a regulation of interstate and international commerce, which can only be accomplished as any other statute can: through the process of bicameralism and presentment,” the lawsuit states. “The president lacks the power to enact his ‘ambitious plan’ to reshape the economy in defiance of Congress’s unwillingness to do so.”

The lawsuit further alleges that the states involved in it stand to lose substantial tax benefits that would have helped “poorer rural areas.”

The pipeline has been halted before, when the Obama administration issued a similar executive order stopping its production. Former President Donald Trump revived the pipeline’s construction in 2019. Biden’s executive order, ending it once again, came about the same day that he was sworn into office earlier this year.

Biden claimed authority to end the pipeline by citing a presidential permit that had been signed by his predecessor. “The Permit is hereby revoked in accordance with Article 1(1) of the Permit,” the executive order read.

Ending the pipeline was important to address the long term effects of climate change and to begin the process of “transition[ing] toward a clean energy economy,” Biden’s order said. “Leaving the Keystone XL pipeline permit in place would not be consistent with my Administration’s economic and climate imperatives.”

While several states are arguing in favor of resuming the pipeline, Indigenous Water Protectors in states like Minnesota want to see more pipeline projects ended as well, such as the Enbridge Line 3 replacement and expansion plan.

Earlier this week Enbridge officials announced a temporary halt to the Line 3 project due to seasonal restrictions. Work is slated to begin again around June 1.

Indigenous activists and community leaders are demanding that Gov. Tim Walz (Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party) issue an executive order ending the pipeline, as a court considers litigation regarding its continued construction.

“Enbridge is now furiously constructing the pipeline, literally at five separate locations in an effort to construct as much of the pipeline as possible before the appellate court considers the substantive issues of the appeal,” Robert Larsen, chairman of the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, wrote in a letter to Walz last month.