Keystone XL pipeline route approved by Nebraska regulators

keystone pipeline
The approved Keystone XL pipeline route is shown in yellow. Omaha World Herald graphic.

Last big regulator hurdle to Keystone XL cleared

On Monday, the Nebraska Public Service Commission announced it approved TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline through the state, but the route chosen is not the company’s preferred path.

The 3-2 decision helps move forward the $8 billion project which will ship Alberta oil sands bitumen to refineries on the US Gulf Coast, but opponents who argue the line is an environmental risk are readying to fight the pipeline in court.

In handing down its decision, the Nebraska Public Service Commission okayed the so-called “mainline alternative route” for the 36-inch pipeline that could carry up to 830,000 barrels per day (b/d).

The approved line runs east of the company’s preferred route, shifting the pipeline across parts of six counties where landowners were not consulted.  TransCanada will now need to reach property easement agreements with these landowners.

Pipeline supporter and Nebraska State Sen. Jim Smith tweeted out that “PSC’s decision today on Keystone XL route creates unnecessary uncertainty. Too bad.”

Rod Johnson, one of the commissioners who approved the pipeline wrote “Keystone has made quite a few promises to Nebraskans, both in their application and during the course of this proceeding. There should be no doubt that this Commission and the citizens of this State expect TransCanada to keep those promises, and we will be watching to make sure that they do so. ”

Commission Chrystal Rhodes voted against the Keystone XL.  She said that many of the landowners who live on the newly-approved route are likely unaware that the pipeline may go through their land as neither the state nor the company gave them notice.

Even though Nebraska has okayed the pipeline, it does not mean the pipeline will be built.  Environmentalists and other opponents have vowed to file lawsuits against the project and the company itself says it will wait until December to decide if it has enough shippers to make the project financially feasible.

In a statement, billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer wrote “We will not stop making our voices heard until this project is dead.”

Keystone XL was approved nine years ago, but was rejected by President Obama late in his final term.  Just after President Trump took office, he gave TransCanada a federal permit for the pipeline, arguing Keystone XL would bring jobs, offer energy security and lower fuel prices.
The pipeline was also approved originally when oil was trading at nearly $150/barrel and before US shale oil output skyrocketed.

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