Attorney General Becerra Files Amicus Brief in Support of Lawsuit Challenging Permit for Keystone XL Pipeline

Tuesday, December 22, 2020
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today led a coalition of 12 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in support of environmental groups’ challenge to the Keystone XL Pipeline. The Keystone XL Pipeline relies on Nationwide Permit 12, which broadly authorizes the construction of oil and gas pipelines across bodies of water. However, the coalition argues that Nationwide Permit 12 is invalid as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) was required to engage in programmatic consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service under the Endangered Species Act before reissuing the permit.

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ignored the law when it jammed through a nationwide permit that all but assures the approval of pipelines regardless of their environmental impacts,” said Attorney General Becerra. " The Endangered Species Act's consultation requirements are clear. We fully stand behind these environmental groups as they fight to make the Army Corps do its job.”

The Keystone XL Pipeline is an expansion to an existing pipeline system that would transport up to 830,000 barrels per day of crude oil from Alberta, Canada and the Bakken shale formation in Montana to existing pipeline facilities near Steele City, Nebraska. The crude oil transported would come from oil sands operations, the extraction of which is particularly energy intensive. The Pipeline would also cross nearly one thousand bodies of water, causing significant impacts to water quality, habitat, and endangered species.

Nationwide Permit 12 expedites the approval of “the construction, maintenance, repair, and removal of utility lines [including oil and gas pipelines] and associated facilities” in waters of the United States, without requiring an applicant to seek an individual permit under the federal Clean Water Act. In most cases, projects utilizing Nationwide Permit 12 may be constructed without further action by, or notification to, the Corps. In other words, Nationwide Permit 12 all but assures that pipelines will be covered by the general permit despite extensive environmental impacts to listed species. However, in reauthorizing Nationwide Permit 12, the Corps bypassed the Endangered Species Act’s formal consultation process in violation of the law.

Enacted under the Nixon Administration in 1973, the Endangered Species Act is intended “to halt and reverse the trend toward species extinction, whatever the cost.” Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act requires a federal agency to engage in formal consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service when a proposed federal action “may affect a listed species or critical habitat.” In the amicus brief, the attorneys general argue that Nationwide Permit 12, on which the Keystone Pipeline relies, is invalid because the Corps failed to consult with federal wildlife agencies regarding the impacts that the permit might have on federally listed endangered and threatened species, as required by Section 7. 

Attorney General Becerra is joined by the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington in filing today’s amicus brief.

A copy of the amicus brief can be found here.

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