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The company behind the controversial Keystone XL pipeline can't begin digging, building camps or any other pre-construction field work until the government's environmental review is completed, a federal judge in Montana ruled Friday.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris’ ruling was a clarification of his Nov. 8 decision, which halted construction by TransCanada but allowed certain pre-construction activities. In that ruling, Morris said President Donald Trump's administration violated U.S. environmental laws when approving a federal permit for the pipeline.

Friday's clarification permits TransCanada to continue surveying, maintaining security and planning, but it blocks all physical construction. 

Jane Kleeb, founder and president of Bold Alliance and chairwoman for the Nebraska Democratic Party, said rural Nebraskans are thankful for the decision.

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"Farmers and ranchers thank the judge for seeing through TransCanada's transparent power grab," Kleeb said. "The Trump administration keeps thumbing their noses at the concerns of rural communities. We want our property rights and water protected, yet all the Trump administration cares about is aiding a foreign oil corporation."

TransCanada is seeking to build a 1,179-mile line from the tar sands area of Alberta, crossing several states and connecting with existing Keystone pipelines near Steele City.

In the past few months, the company has hauled pipelines and other equipment to Montana in anticipation of starting construction.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7223 or ckeene@journalstar.com.

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Newsroom intern

2018 fall semester intern at the Journal Star.

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