Nebraska approves path for controversial Keystone XL pipeline

(Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

LINCOLN, NE — The Nebraska Public Service Commission voted 3-2 Monday to allow the Keystone XL pipeline to cross the state. The decision is a key step toward the completion of the Keystone Pipeline network.

The Keystone Pipeline system transfers crude oil via a 2,600-mile route from Alberta,Canada, east into Manitoba, Canada, and then south across the US border to Texas, parent company TransCanada said.

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 received a route approval application from TransCanada for the pipeline in February and has been evaluating the project in a process that included public hearings and comments .

“The pipeline carrier has the burden to establish that the proposed route of the major oil pipeline would serve the public interest,” the commission said.

Trump administration vs. environmentalists

The Keystone XL debate has raged for years. The Canadian government had urged President Barack Obama to approve the project, touting its job-creating potential. But in February 2015, Obama vetoed legislation that would have approved the project.

Fast-forward to this March, when President Donald Trump’s administration fulfilled a campaign promise and issued a permit approving the Keystone XL’s construction.

Many supporters of the pipeline expansion say it’d be an economic boon. In 2015, the State Department said the project would create about 42,000 jobs directly and indirectly, including about 3,900 construction jobs.

It would also provide about $2 billion in economic benefits, the State Department review said.

But the construction jobs would last no more than two years. And once they wrapped up, Keystone XL would leave only about 50 permanent jobs.

Environmental groups lobbied against the Keystone XL, expressing concerns that the pipeline will rely on Canadian oil sands — a dirtier form of oil that releases more greenhouse gases than standard oil extraction.

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. And Native American groups have argued that the pipeline would cut across their sovereign lands.

Keystone Pipeline leak

Concerns about the Keystone Pipeline’s safety heightened last Thursday after an oil leak southeast of Amherst, South Dakota.

TransCanada said a total of 210,000 gallons of oil leaked from part of the existing Keystone Pipeline in eastern South Dakota.

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.

But TransCanada said the incident did not endanger anyone nearby.

“On-site specialists in Marshall County, South Dakota confirm the incident is under control and that there is no significant environmental impact observed or threat to public safety,” TransCanada said in a statement Saturday.

On Sunday, TransCanada said 150 people were “working around-the-clock” on cleanup at the site of the leak.