Nebraska OK's Keystone XL Pipeline, but more obstacles in the horizon

The Keystone Steele City pumping station into which the planned Keystone XL pipeline is to connect to is seen in Steele City Nebraska

The commission was forbidden by law from considering a recent oil spill in South Dakota on the existing Keystone pipeline in its decision. "The effect of that is, it would be years before any alternative could in fact practically be built", maintains Peter Anderson with the environmental group 350 Madison.

"Regardless of the Public Service Commission's decision today, millions of people across the country will continue to speak out and demand that the Keystone XL project never gets built", Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement. "That's the good news".

The state's Public Service Commission voted 3-2 in favor of the expansion pipeline, days after the existing Keystone Pipeline spilled 210,000 gallons of oil in South Dakota.

Anderson said with the environmental group Madison 350 says that means Enbridge, which competes with TransCanada, will double down its efforts in Wisconsin and Minnesota - and predicted fierce opposition.

TransCanada has said that it would announce in late November or early December whether to proceed with the pipeline - which would carry an estimated 830,000 barrels of oil a day - and would take into account the Nebraska decision and whether it has lined up enough long-term contracts to ship oil.

The argument could be made that if it's built, Keystone XL locks Alberta and the United States into the oil and gas business for decades to come, in a big way. "Not if we can help it".

Ongoing legal challenges to the project, and the change of route in Nebraska could add further complications.

Additionally, they wrote, "it is in the public interest for the pipelines to be in closer proximity to each other, so as to maximize monitoring resources and increase the efficiency of response times" with "issues that may arise with either pipeline". "There's too much at stake to allow this dirty, unsafe project to move forward", said Todd Paglia, Executive Director of Stand.earth.

The proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, which would stretch from Hardisty, Alberta, southeast to Steele City, Nebraska, would augment other pipelines and complete the entire system. The Commission rejected TransCanada's preferred route for the project, as well as the original one which would have passed through the ecologically sensitive Sandhills region, instead approving the "alternative mainline route".

The new route will require new right of way contracts with at least 40 landowners, some of whom may not have realized that their land was on a pipeline route.

President Donald Trump revived the project in January and signed a memoranda expediting the environmental review process for the project.

But TransCanada said the incident did not endanger anyone nearby.

In addition, environmentalist groups are wary that construction of the pipeline - and potential leaks - would impact sources of fresh water like the massive Ogallala Aquifer, which lies beneath the Great Plains. In March, TransCanada received a presidential permit from the U.S. Department of State to construct the 36-inch pipeline. Approval was quickly granted. The current pipeline runs through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas and extends east into Missouri and IL. Its power over the project is drawn from the state's constitution.

TransCanada wants to build the almost 1,200-mile Keystone XL pipeline from Canada through several states, including South Dakota.

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