Published: Mon, November 20, 2017
Money | By Armando Alvarado

Keystone XL Pipeline Clears Major Regulatory Hurdle

Keystone XL Pipeline Clears Major Regulatory Hurdle

The new pipeline would carry an estimated 830,000 barrels of oil a day from the oil sands areas of Canada through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, where it would connect with the existing Keystone pipeline. This AP graphic shows the Keystone XL pipeline in red.

The commission, however, was specifically prohibited from evaluating safety considerations, including risk or impact of a spill, and will instead rule on issues including regulatory compliance, economic and social impacts of the project, the potential intrusion on natural resources, and whether better routes exist.

Kelly Martin, the Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign director at the Sierra Club, added, "We've always said it's not a question of whether a pipeline will spill, but when, and today TransCanada is making our case for us".

"This spill puts an exclamation point on the need to reject Keystone XL, but it doesn't tell us anything we didn't already know about pipelines".

Nebraska was the last jurisdiction to approve the pipeline's route, which begins in Hardisty, Alberta, then crosses into Saskatchewan, as well as USA states of Montana and South Dakota before reaching Steele City in Nebraska.

The independent commission had come under pressure from the Nebraska state legislature and labor unions to approve the pipeline while environmental groups and prairie populists have vowed to appeal, if necessary, to the courts and follow that up with civil disobedience. The current pipeline network runs south through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas and extends east into Missouri and IL.

Pipeline opponents have lined parts of the proposed route with obstacles, including trees, solar panels, sacred corn from the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska and a barn powered by renewable energy.

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Despite that, Affleck had relatively poised and insightful responses to each of Colbert's questions. He added, "I'm not a spokesman, I'm not a superhero, I can't change it by myself".

The approved route would follow the path the company prefers through four northern Nebraska counties.

John said the company also needs to finalize its contracts with shippers that want to use the pipeline.

Opponents in August vowed to stage mass protests against the pipeline if Nebraska regulators approve it, but say they will exhaust legal options first. But instead of turning south as company officials had hoped, the alternative route would continue southeast until it encounters the path of the original Keystone pipeline that went into service in 2010. If that happens, the process would require additional public hearings and could take two years.

Commissioner Chrystal Rhoades, one of the two who voted against approval, said while the "mainline alternative route" bypasses the Sandhills, it still runs through "several miles of fragile soils that have a high probability of landslides and will be hard to restore while they are disturbed". In 2015, the State Department said the project would create about 42,000 jobs directly and indirectly, including about 3,900 construction jobs. The commissioners said they wouldn't comment beyond their written statements because their decision could be subject to a court review.

In her dissent, Rhoades said she opposed the pipeline regardless of the route. The ruling is also nearly certain to face legal challenges, and is likely to end up at the Nebraska Supreme Court.

"This is a long and winding road", said Brian Jorde, an attorney for the landowners.

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