Pipeline plan clears last major regulatory impediment after vote in Nebraska, but legal challenges and protest likely to follow

A panel of Nebraska regulators have voted narrowly in favor of allowing the Keystone XL pipeline to follow a path through the nation, removing the last major regulatory impediment for the controversial programme.

The Nebraska public service commission voted 3-2 to approve work permits for the pipeline, which will stretch for 1,200 miles and carry up to 830,000 barrels of oil a day. The election find one of the four Republican on the commission, Mary Ridder, join with the Democrat, Crystal Rhoades, in resisting work permits. Rhoades said she was concerned about the impact upon landowners and that there was ” no proof” the pipeline would create jobs in Nebraska.

The vote will allow the pipeline to go through Nebraska, but not on the path favored by TransCanada, private developers of the project. The approved route is further east than originally planned.

The decision is likely to be immediately challenged by Native American and environmental groups that allegation the pipeline imperils water supplies and will worsen climate change. Last week, an existing Keystone pipeline spilled 210,000 gallons of petroleum in South Dakota, although the Nebraska panel did not take this into consideration in its decision.

While the pipeline has been ostensibly approved, it faces a brush of legal challenges that may wait or even halt the project. Bill McKibben, the co-founder of climate group 350. org and a leading opponent of the pipeline, said lawyers he’d was talking about are” cheerful and that there is still” lots of room to fight .”

Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said the group is already assessing its legal alternatives.” Our motion overcame this pipeline once, and we will do it again ,” he said.

The prospect of farther courtroom duels, coupled with currently unfavorable oil prices, prompted a muted response from TransCanada to the Nebraska decision.

” As an expression of the results of today’s decision, we will conduct a careful review of the public service commission’s ruling while evaluate how their own decisions would impact the cost and schedule of the project ,” said Russ Girling, TransCanada’s president and chief executive.

Opponents in August swore to stage mass protests against the pipeline if Nebraska regulators approved it, though say they will exhaust legal options first.

Pipeline antagonists have lined parts of the proposed itinerary with obstacles, including trees, solar panels, sacred corn from the Ponca tribe of Nebraska and a barn powered by renewable energy. Some foes may try to physically block construction and have likened their resistance to the activists who protested against the Dakota Access pipe in Standing Rock, North Dakota.

In March, Donald Trump overruled a decision by Barack Obama’s administration to block the pipeline extension, with the president calling the reversal a” great period for jobs and energy freedom “. Trump has previously said there is” no downside” to the project.

” Nothing has changed at all in our defense of ground, air and water of the Oceti Sakowin Lands ,” said Faith Spotted Eagle, a member of the Yankton Sioux Nation, located in South Dakota.” If anything it has become more focused, stronger and more adamant after Standing Rock.

” It’s clear that the Trump administration, through its dirty energy policies, is intent on destroying our homelands with no is in relation to the working groups; we are all seen as dispensable, taxable and voiceless .”

TransCanada has said it is still interested in a project that has been in the works since 2008. The programme would expand the existing Keystone pipe system to haul a large volume of tar sand oil from the Canadian district of Alberta to refineries on the Gulf coast of Texas.

Environmentalists have raised concerns about the pipeline because crude oil from tar sands creates about 17% more greenhouse gases than standard crude oil. There are also panics over its impact upon the Ogallala aquifer, one of the world’s largest underground deposits of fresh water, which the pipeline will cut across.

In 2015, the state department estimated that the project would create about 42,000 direct and indirect undertakings, with around 50 permanent jobs to maintain the pipeline.

Read more: https :// www.theguardian.com/ environment/ 2017/ nov/ 20/ keystone-xl-pipeline-route-approved