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Environmentalists continue to fight against Keystone XL; turn to legal proceedings

Several environmental groups are banding together to ask US President Barack Obama to personally decide on a proposed pipeline that would take oilsands crude to refineries on the Gulf Coast. A letter signed by environmental and public interest groups cites internal State Department documents that the groups say demonstrate an friendly relationship with executives of Calgary-based TransCanada. The State Department has authority over the 2,735 kilometre pipeline because it would cross the U.S. border, travelling through six states.

Three conservation groups are suing to halt preliminary work on the project. The lawsuit filed today in federal court in Nebraska contends that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service broke the law by allowing TransCanada to start preparing the route for the Keystone XL.

The groups say federal officials allowed TransCanada to clear a 160-kilometre pipeline corridor through the Nebraska Sandhills despite a federal law barring projects from launching before they receive approval. The project would cross the Ogallala aquifer, which supplies groundwater to Nebraska and seven other states.

The lawsuit also names the U.S. State Department, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.