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Environmental groups are taking aim at Nationwide Permit No. 12, a streamlined permit that has been used for a wide variety of oil pipelines out of the Bakken, including Dakota Access and the stalled Keystone XL.

The suit was filed in the same district court that decided last year to cancel Keystone XL’s water crossing permit, issued under NWP 12. Judge Brian Morris in his ruling said the streamlined process used under the permit was not sufficient under the Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts to protect endangered species.

An appeals court ultimately restricted Morris’ decision to Keystone only, but environmental groups have since picked up the threads of those arguments and woven a brand new suit that challenges the Trump administration’s re-issuance of NWP 12 — even as the Biden administration has already said it will review that permit and others to align them Biden’s climate change agenda.

The suit was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, Montana Environmental Information Center, Friends of the Earth and Waterkeeper Alliance. In it, the environmental groups said the Corps did not consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service on re-issuance of the permit, even though they had been directed to do so on remand.

“The Corps reiterated the same erroneous argument previously rejected by this court, contending that programmatic consultation is not required, because all NWP 12 projects that may affect listed species are subject to project-specific consultation, and therefore the issuance of NWP 12 has no effect on listed species,” the group wrote.

But project-specific consultation does not negate requirements that federal agencies consider their actions in light of the whole, the group contended, and allowing the situation to continue will imperil thousands of rivers, streams, wetlands and waterbodies across the nation.

Among examples the group cites are pipelines constructed to move oil out of the Bakken.

“These projects often must cross hundreds of waterways, including rivers that provide public water supply and habitat for listed species. For example, several pipeline projects have been constructed or proposed from Montana, North Dakota, and/or Canada across the Missouri and Platte Rivers in Montana and Nebraska to reach refineries along the Gulf Coast,” the group wrote. “These river systems are home to the endangered pallid sturgeon and are relied upon by migratory birds, including the iconic whooping crane. Construction-related habitat degradation and oil spills would devastate critically imperiled species, thereby harming Plaintiffs’ members who study them and/or enjoy their existence in the wild.”

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