Alternative Keystone XL route OKed in Nebraska

Lloyd Doyle
November 21, 2017

Opponents of the Keystone XL oil pipeline say a Nebraska commission's decision to approve an alternative route will enable them to take actions that could indefinitely block the project.

"We will conduct a careful review of the Public Service Commission's ruling while assessing how the decision would impact the cost and schedule of the project". Their decision will be on whether or not the pipeline's route would be in the best interest of the state's residents, but a rejection would be a setback for the controversial project. The commission, though, approved an alternative route that could throw more uncertainty into the mix for Keystone XL.

"Nebraska's decision today greatly diminishes the political risk for the project, likely clearing the way for increased volumes of West Canadian heavy crude to reach the Gulf Coast", Zachary Rogers, refining and oil markets research analyst at Wood Mackenzie, said.

TransCanada shut down the existing Keystone Pipeline on Thursday after detecting a drop in pressure caused by a leak estimated at 5,000 barrels in South Dakota, which borders Nebraska to the north.

XL's route flexibility is also limited by where the pipeline exits South Dakota and enters Nebraska.

The Sierra Club added that it would oppose the pipeline along any route because "the pipeline would transport dirty, climate-polluting tar sands through Nebraska to the Gulf Coast for export, threatening land, water, and communities along the way". They said it opened new avenues for regulatory and legal challenges, pointing out that the approved route had been through much less regulatory scrutiny than the preferred route, which had been the focus of most of the attention. He says the vote, "opens up a whole new bag of issues that we can raise".

Environmental groups spearheaded by Bold Alliance and the Sierra Club claimed the conduit would require an 80- to 110-foot-wide construction right-of-way, fifty feet of which would remain after completion, with the potential to devastate environmentally sensitive areas and harm endangered species.

"The promised jobs won't result", she says.

The case is In the Matter of the Application of TransCanada Keystone Pipeline LP for Route Approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline Project, 0p-0003, Nebraska Public Service Commission (Lincoln). Today, the Nebraska Public Service Commission had its say.

TransCanada Corp.'s plan to build a almost 1,200-mile (1,931-kilometer) pipeline faces intense opposition from environmental groups, Native American tribes and some landowners. She said that the pipeline was not in the state's public interest, that jobs would not go to Nebraskans, that it would create "significant burdens" on landowners whose use of the pipeline corridor would be limited, and that she was still anxious about the environmental impact.

The project, which secured presidential permit from the United States government in March 2017, has faced obstruction for eight years. The commission was forbidden by law from considering a recent oil spill on the existing Keystone pipeline in its decision. In its first full year of operation, the Keystone XL would generate $11.8 million in additional property taxes for counties in the State of Nebraska, the group said.

The decision Monday could have a big impact on whether TransCanada Corp. decides to proceed with construction of the project, which was first proposed in 2008 but repeatedly delayed. The project had the support of the state's governor, Republican Pete Ricketts, its chamber of commerce, trade unions and the petroleum industry. The approval, however, reversed former US President Barack Obama's decision to reject the project.

Omaha attorney David Domina, who's been fighting construction of the Keystone XL for more than five years, represented more than 90 landowners in the case, many of whom had fought the project to a standstill two years ago.

It was the largest Keystone oil spill to date in South Dakota, said Brian Walsh, spokesman for the state's Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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