The last major regulatory block preventing the building of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline has finally been removed, as regulators in Nebraska voted to give the green light to the project by a narrow margin. This is unlikely to be the end of the legal tangle surrounding the pipeline, as some groups have already vowed to take it back to court, but it certainly strengthens TransCanada’s hand.
Despite strong opposition and successfully fighting to put the project on hold by Native American and environmental groups, President Trump rolled back this progress within a week of being in office and revived the pipeline. Now, in a vote of 3-2 by regulators in Nebraska, it has finally passed its final hurdle.
The plan is for the pipeline to run from the tar sands in Alberta, cross the border into Montana, go through South Dakota, before linking up with the pre-existing Keystone pipeline that continues on to processing plants in Texas.
Already, the Sierra Club have announced their intention to challenge the pipeline once more. Michael Burne, the executive director, said: “The Sierra Club and our allies will continue to explore all legal options to fight back against this project and protect our water, our health, our communities, and our climate from Keystone XL. Our movement defeated this pipeline once, and we will do it again.”
In reference to the new approval, TransCanada were pretty muted in their response, probably in anticipation of the legal battles to come. “As a result of today's decision, we will conduct a careful review of the Public Service Commission's ruling while assessing how the decision would impact the cost and schedule of the project,” said Russ Girling, TransCanada's president and chief executive.
This has all occurred after another section of the TransCanada Keystone pipeline, which currently runs through North and South Dakota and into Nebraska, was found leaking 800,000 liters (210,000 gallons) of oil in Amherst, South Dakota. Even though TransCanada say they stemmed the flow within just 15 minutes of the leak occurring, it still managed to become the largest leak in Keystone’s history.
Yet when making the decision over the new section, the regulators in Nebraska apparently did not take the most recent leak into consideration, even though some of the major concerns for the project are regarding the threat that the pipeline will pose to water supplies. Another major opposition is simply the fact that many feel that as a country, the US should be moving away from fossil fuels.
With the political blocks cleared for TransCanada, it now looks like it is all going to come down to the courts.