Nebraska regulators recently approved a Keystone XL oil pipeline route through the state, breathing new life into the long-delayed $8 billion project, although the chosen pathway is not the one preferred by the company that hopes to build it and could mean more time is needed to study the changes.
The Nebraska Public Service Commission's vote also is likely to face court challenges and may even require another federal analysis of the route, if the project's opponents get their way. "This decision opens up a whole new bag of issues that we can raise," said Ken Winston, an attorney representing environmental groups that have long opposed the project. Environmental activists, American Indian tribes and some landowners have fiercely opposed the project since it was proposed by TransCanada Corp. in 2008. It would carry oil from Canada through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska to meet the existing Keystone pipeline, where it could proceed as far as the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Business groups and some unions support the project as a way to create jobs and reduce the risk of shipping the oil by trains that can derail.
President Barack Obama's administration studied the project for years before finally rejecting it in 2015 because of concerns about carbon pollution. President Donald Trump reversed that decision in March.
The route approved 3-2 by the Nebraska commission would be five miles longer than the one TransCanada preferred and would require an additional pumping station. Commissioners who voted for it said the alternative route would affect less rangeland for endangered species.
TransCanada CEO Russ Girling issued a statement after the ruling, saying the company would study "how the decision would impact the cost and schedule of the project."
Keystone XL would expand the existing Keystone pipeline network, which went into service in July 2010. The current pipeline network runs south through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas and extends east into Missouri and Illinois.
(The Associated Press, 11/21/2017)