Federal judge blocks construction of Keystone XL Pipeline in Montana

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GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) - A federal judge in Montana has blocked construction of the $8 billion Keystone XL Pipeline to allow more time to study the project's potential environmental impact.

The Great Falls Tribune reports U.S. District Judge Brian Morris' order on Thursday came as Calgary-based TransCanada was preparing to build the first stages of the oil pipeline in northern Montana. Environmental groups had sued TransCanada and The U.S. Department of State in federal court in Great Falls.

Morris said the government's analysis didn't fully study the cumulative effects of greenhouse gas emissions, the effects of current oil prices on the pipeline's viability or include updated modeling of potential oil spills.

In March 2017, President Donald Trump's administration issued a permit approving construction of the pipeline, reversing the Obama administration's decision to block the controversial project.

The permit approval followed years of intense debate over the pipeline amid steadfast opposition from environmental groups.

They argued that the pipeline would support the extraction of crude oil from oil sands, a process that pumps more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than standard crude oil extraction. They also opposed the pipeline because it would run across one of the world's largest underground deposits of fresh water.

Native American groups argued the pipeline would cut across their sovereign lands.

The 1,184-mile pipeline would transport up to 830,000 barrels of crude a day from Alberta, Canada and Montana to facilities in Nebraska. The question over the approved route in Nebraska is still being challenged.