The Nebraska Public Service Commission today rejected TransCanada's preferred route for the Keystone XL pipeline in a vote five to zero.
Instead, they granted a conditional approval along a different, new route the company had previously claimed would be unworkable. As reported by the Sierra Club, it would allow the pipeline to be partly built along an existing Keystone 1 route, rather than entirely along its preferred route.
The approved route still crosses the Ogallala aquifer and Treaty lands.
This raises new questions and hurdles for the fraught project. For example, there are landowners along the new route that have yet to be approached or consulted about the the project. This creates new opportunities for further challenging the project, including through legal means.
The Keystone XL pipeline has been a flashpoint of resistance to fossil fuels, in defence of Indigenous and landowner rights and water protection in the U.S. for over seven years.
Just last week the Keystone 1 pipeline spilled in Marshall County, northeast South Dakota, underscoring the very real threat of a major oil spill and TransCanada’s poor spill track record. This spill was on a different line (than the proposed Keystone XL) that is part of the same pipeline system TransCanada owns.
The Council of Canadians exposed TransCanada’s spill record in Canada in our Energy East campaign, finding they had the worst spill record in the country and that nearly all the spills were discovered by people, not their spill detection system.
This is not the end of the fight against Keystone XL.
As Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network stated on Facebook, “It's important to remember that even if they approve any of the routes, the fight is not over: there will be an appeal and there is good legal basis for appeal, especially if PSC does not consider existing corridors. In addition we do not know if TC will be willing to build anything other than the preferred route.”
In their live press conference following the announcement, Bold Nebraska's Jane Kleeb said they would continue to fight relentlessly including with their Solar XL project, building additional solar installations with landowners in the path of Keystone XL.
As described in Bold Nebraska's response, landowners, Tribes, Bold and other official intervenors also now have the option to within 30 days file an appeal in the Nebraska courts of portions of the PSC’s decision, to ensure that property rights, cultural and natural resources receive maximum protections. Separately, intervenor parties may also petition the Public Service Commission for a rehearing within ten days of the decision.
As the Sierra Club highlights, despite this conditional approval from Nebraska regulators, it remains unlikely that the project will move forward. Many in the industry believe the project is unnecessary given a lack of market demand for more tar sands. TransCanada has struggled to line up customers for the pipeline and though they now claim they have support for the project, they still do not have any firm commitments. During their testimony in the PSC’s public hearings, TransCanada argued that building along an alternative route would be unworkable, and will now need additional easements if the company tries to proceed with the project. The company also still needs federal approvals from the Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Land Management before construction could begin, and a federal lawsuit brought by the Sierra Club and other groups challenging the State Department’s approval of the project is still ongoing.
The Council of Canadians traveled to Washington numerous times to join protests against Keystone XL, including calling on the Canadian embassy in August 2011 to demand that they stop lobbying for the pipeline, participating in the Surround the White House action in November 2011, and the Forward on Climate protest in February 2013.
We will continue to work with allies to oppose the construction of this pipeline and to support a 100 per cent clean energy economy by 2050.
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