Approved by the Nebraska Public Service Commission on November 20, 2017
Last Monday, five members of an obscure Nebraska committee voted three-to-two in favor of TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline (KXL) route through their state. The Keystone XL is the name for the fourth and final phase of the Keystone Pipeline System. Overcoming this regulatory obstacle was cited as a victory for the 1,179 mile-long pipeline nine years after the initial proposal. In 2011, President Obama delayed construction of the KXL in the U.S. before rejecting the project completely in 2015 for climate change reasons. Trump reversed this order within his first month as president, calling the pipeline a source of jobs and revenue with “no down side.” However, the approved route differs from that of the initial proposal. This approved Mainline Alternative route is further east, nearer to the phase three portion of the pipeline and further away from the Sandhills region and Ogallala Aquifer. This caveat creates further complications for the pipeline hopefuls who must now assess feasibility and cost differential between the two pathways. In addition, TransCanada would have to get temporary permission (easement agreements) from new landowners. Environmental groups and local native tribes have also promised to protest the decision through both demonstrations and legal action based on the lack of analysis on this alternate route. Not to be confused with the American Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), the KXL opposition mainly consists of environmentalists as opposed to the recently stayed DAPL, which was protested based on its pathway through Standing Rock Sioux sacred sites.
This vote does not necessarily mean the pipeline will be built. While it was a substantial regulatory hurdle, the approval of a different route may require new permits and renewed State Department approval. This alternate site is near a current oil Mainline, but there has been little investigation of the proposed site and the implications a pipeline route would have on that location. The decision came four days after 210,000 gallons spilled from the phase one portion of the pipeline in South Dakota. Keystone XL advocates claim that all infrastructure breaks down at some point, but many see this as a concern. Especially when considering that the Canadian tar sands oil creates up to 50 percent more carbon dioxide than conventional oil when burned. When the proposal was initially submitted in 2008, oil was $80-90 a barrel compared to the current price of $60 a barrel. Even if delays do not continue, the lauded economic impact may not meet expectations and the overall outcome may be far less lucrative than originally expected.
- Find out more about the Keystone XL from NRDC (National Resource Defense Council)
- Read the recent Call to Action from a collective group of those in opposition to the pipeline.
This brief was compiled by Megan Toney. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.