Courts & Crime

Court rejects challenge to big tar sands oil pipeline

A federal judge on Monday rejected environmentalists’ challenge to a nearly 600-mile pipeline designed to carry tar sands crude oil between Illinois and Oklahoma.

In a 48-page decision, U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson concluded the Flanagan South Pipeline could proceed without further federal study.

“This much is clear,” Jackson wrote. “A private company is constructing the FS Pipeline project largely on privately-owned land; the federal agencies that have been consulted about aspects of the pipeline project have control over only a small portion of the land and waterways that the pipeline traverses; and no statute authorizes the federal government to regulate or oversee the construction of a domestic oil pipeline.”

The pipeline will connect Pontiac, Ill. with Cushing, Okla., through the states of Missouri and Kansas. The Sierra Club and National Wildlife Federation had challenged the Army Corps of Engineers and other federal agencies, contending the agencies had failed to conduct necessary environmental reviews.

The private company building the pipeline has already approached more than 1,700 private land owners, and had secured 96 percent of the land rights along the 589-mile pipeline route, Jackson noted. Federal agencies studied the pipeline’s impact on the small portion of federal land it is to cross, but not of the entire pipeline.

“The record evidence establishes that the FS Pipeline is not itself an ‘action’ of the federal government, no matter how earnestly Plaintiffs contend that it is,” Jackson wrote.