Keystone XL Approval May Open Door for Foes to Fight Route

Keystone XL Approval May Open Door for Foes to Fight Route

Nebraska regulators said use of the alternative route would limit the impact of the pipeline on numerous threatened and endangered species, including the endangered whooping crane habitat.

The five-member Nebraska Public Service Commission is forbidden by law from factoring pipeline safety or the risk of spills into its decision because pipeline safety is a federal responsibility.

Dennis McConaghy, former executive vice president of corporate development at TransCanada, said he would expect senior management to announce they will go ahead with the project by year's end with construction by the later half of 2019. She noted that the State Department, the lead federal permitting agency, did not analyze the alternative route.

TransCanada spokeswoman Jacquelynn Benson says the cause of the leak won't be known until further investigation.

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Monday's decision came just four days after another pipeline operated by the same company spilled 210,000 gallons of oil in neighboring South Dakota.

Republican Commissioner Mary Ridder, the other dissenting voice in the opinion, criticized TransCanada's proposed natural resource and mitigation plans, saying the company's proposed strategy was unlikely to succeed in restoring the fragile and highly erodible soils found along northern portions of the approved route.

The impetus for the controversial pipeline has been to provide transportation for the thick bitumen produced in Alberta to the gulf coast.

Nebraska's decision overrode the objections of environmental groups, Native American tribes and landowners along the pipeline's prospective route.

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Some analysts have questioned the financials of the Keystone XL project in the face of falling crude oil prices that have hurt production growth from relatively expensive oil sands formations.

Morris cited a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a case concerning a federal visa exchange program. 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. And climate change activists are trying to block increased output in the oil sands region, where high amounts of energy are needed to extract the oil. Residents of Texas, where the pipeline was originally proposed to terminate, complained their land was being taken against their will. Nebraska residents resented what they said was unwelcome bullying by a foreign company.

The Sierra Club also greeted the commission's decision as a partial victory. "It's a matter of when and I wouldn't want my land to be contaminated, with the water underneath".

While hurdles likely remain before the pipeline is finally given the green light by all involved, it was another step toward the $8 billion project that would see a 280-mile-long route built across the state.

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