Keystone XL has obtained a key right of way for its pipeline in Montana. The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management on Wednesday, Jan. 22 announced that it is granting TC Energy a right of way across 44 miles of federally managed land in Montana.

The authorization is among key permits and authorizations TC Energy needs to construct the Keystone XL pipeline.

“We are in receipt of and are reviewing the Record of Decision,” Terry Cunha, a spokesperson for TC Energy told the Williston Herald. “This is another important step as we advance toward building this important energy infrastructure project.”

The authorization comes on the heels of a status report TC Energy filed last week with the U.S. District Court of Montana on its construction activity in 2019. In it, the company said it would begin pre-construction activities in February and build segments of the line in Montana in August. It’s also planning to construct a 1.2 mile-segment that crosses the U.S.-Canada border in April.

The BLM right-of-way is not the only authorization the company needs in Montana. The company will also need permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to alter public works at Fort Peck, Montana.

And it will also need authorizations from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Western Area Power Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service, which must weigh in on projects related to providing rights of way, expanding substations, and interconnecting with the electrical grid, and/or financing the construction and operation of power lines.

BLM manages pipeline right of ways on lands it administers, or when that right of way crosses land managed by two or more federal agencies. The 44 miles in Montana is the only portion of the pipeline’s 1,209-mile stretch requiring the BLM’s scrutiny.

The BLM’s decision to grant the pipeline its right of way in Montana came after what U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt described as an “exhaustive” environmental review, and included tribal consultation as well as public input over the course of several years to mitigate the project’s impact.

“Today’s decision is an important milestone in constructing the Keystone XL pipeline and a great day for the commonsense infrastructure improvement in our country,” Bernhardt said. “President Trump clearly recognizes the importance of having the infrastructure necessary to meet our energy needs and to fuel our economic progress.”

TC Energy also got approval on Tuesday, Jan. 21, for five water permits in South Dakota to tap the Cheyenne, White and Bad rivers during construction. The water will be used for drilling during pipeline installation, as well as to control dust and build pump stations. Those were the last of permits the company needed in that state.

Keystone still faces two lawsuits, one filed by environmental groups and another filed by tribal groups.

Keystone XL was proposed more than a decade ago to carry 830,000 barrels per day of crude oil from Alberta to the Midwest. From there, the oil could access Gulf Coast refineries or other markets.

The line is roughly 882 miles in the United States, and 327 in Canada. The U.S. route runs through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.

“Along with sustainable and responsible development of our energy resources, this pipeline will provide jobs and opportunity and ensure reliable and affordable energy supplies are safely transported to power our nation’s economy,” said Acting Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Land and Minerals Management Casey Hammond.

Montana Senator Steve Daines and U.S. Representative Greg Gianforte both released statement praising BLM’s decision.

“This is good news, and moves us one step closer to getting this project done for Montana jobs and our energy security,” Daines said.

Gianforte added that the approval shows that President Donald Trump is delivering on a promise to get critical infrastructure moving, after years of delay.

“The Keystone XL pipeline will create good-paying Montana jobs, boost our local economies, increase American energy security, and help keep energy prices down,” he said.

TC Energy’s original cost estimate for Keystone XL was $5 billion, but now is more like $10 billion, according to information the company has filed with the Montana District Court for pending environmental lawsuits against the pipeline.

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