Published: Tue, November 21, 2017
Economy | By Shawn Conner

Nebraska regulators approve Keystone XL pipeline route

Nebraska regulators approve Keystone XL pipeline route

Today, the Nebraska Public Service Commission approved a permit to build the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline but rejected TransCanada's preferred route through the state of Nebraska.

The vote comes as TransCanada continues to clean up a 5,000-barrel oil spill from its pipeline in nearby South Dakota that opponents have held up as a reason not to approve Keystone XL. But Daugaard says he recognizes some residents are disappointed by Nebraska's decision.

They have said they are anxious spills could pollute water critical for grazing cattle, and that tax revenue and jobs will be short-lived.Just days ago, TransCanada's existing Keystone system spilled 5,000 barrels in South Dakota and pipeline opponents said the spill highlighted the risks posed by the proposed XL expansion."Common sense has gone out the window on this project", said rancher Randy Thompson after the commission's decision.The commission's approval of TransCanada's "alternative" route surprised some Nebraskans. Nebraska emerged as an epicenter of opposition to the project, which would stretch more than 1,100 miles from Alberta, Canada to the southern part of the state, where it would join up with existing pipelines.

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According to Reuters, approval in Nebraska was the last major hurdle for the controversial pipeline project. But opponents have promised to tie the project up in court for years and TransCanada is still studying its commercial viability after a surge in USA drilling that has cut crude oil prices roughly in half since the pipeline was first proposed."We are going to fight like hell to make sure this pipeline never gets built", said Jane Kleeb, the head of anti-pipeline political advocacy group Bold Nebraska.

Environmentalists and landowners along the route have opposed the project over such concerns as spills and climate change.

Commissioners chose to approve an alternative route that would run farther north than TransCanada's preferred route. The ruling is also nearly certain to face legal challenges, and is likely to end up at the Nebraska Supreme Court. This AP graphic shows the Keystone XL pipeline in red.

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In a written decision, the panel said it was in the public's interest to put the new pipeline nearer to the current one to maximize monitoring resources, to impact less of the habitat of endangered species, and other route benefits. The current pipeline network runs south through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas and extends east into Missouri and IL.

"We're going through the process with every intention to get this project built", John said on Wednesday. The company has not announced the results of its open season bidding process, which ended October 26.

TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha said it had around 150 people on site working around the clock and the cause of the leak was under investigation. As NPR's Richard Gonzalez noted, the spill - while it affected a different pipeline - did "nothing to enhance prospects for the XL Pipeline, which critics argue should not be allowed to operate" and which some landowners have been leery to see built near them.

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