By Valerie Volcovici
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Several environmental groups filed lawsuits against the Trump administration on Thursday to challenge its decision to approve construction of TransCanada Corp's controversial Keystone XL crude oil pipeline.
In two separate filings to a federal court in Montana, environmental groups argued that the U.S. State Department, which granted the permit needed for the pipeline to cross the Canadian border, relied on an "outdated and incomplete environmental impact statement" when making its decision earlier this month.
By approving the pipeline without public input and an up-to-date environmental assessment, the administration violated the National Environmental Policy Act, groups including the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club and the Northern Plains Resource Council said in their legal filing.
"They have relied on an arbitrary, stale, and incomplete environmental review completed over three years ago, for a process that ended with the State Department’s denial of a cross-border permit," the court filing says.
In the other filing, the Indigenous Environmental Network and North Coast Rivers Alliance sought injunctive relief, restraining Transcanada from taking any action that would harm the "physical environment in connection with the project pending a full hearing on the merits."
U.S. President Donald Trump announced the presidential permit for the Keystone XL at the White House last week. TransCanada's Chief Executive Officer Russ Girling and Sean McGarvey, president of North America's Building Trades Unions, stood nearby.
Trump, a Republican, said the project would lower consumer fuel prices, create jobs and reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
His Democratic predecessor, former president Barack Obama, rejected the pipeline, saying it would lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions and do nothing to reduce fuel prices for U.S. motorists.
"This tar sands pipeline poses a direct threat to our climate, our clean water, wildlife, and thousands of landowners and communities along the route of this dirty and dangerous project, and it must and will be stopped," said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, one of the groups that filed the lawsuit.
The lawsuits came on the heels of a lawsuit filed on Wednesday challenging other recent moves to undo Obama's climate change regulations.
Conservation groups and the Northern Cheyenne Native American tribe of Montana sued the administration on Wednesday for violating the National Environmental Policy Act when it lifted a moratorium on coal leases on federal land.
All lawsuits have been filed in U.S. District Court in Montana’s Great Falls Division.
(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Marguerita Choy)