Keystone XL Pipeline Clears Major Regulatory Hurdle

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Pipeline construction in 2013. Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Nebraska state regulators voted 3–2 to approve a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, the controversial, $8 billion project that had become a cause célèbre for environmentalists during the last years of the Obama administration.

But the regulators devised a different route for the pipeline than had originally been planned, leaving the future of the project unclear. The ruling is also almost certain to face legal challenges, and is likely to end up at the Nebraska Supreme Court.

Still, the decision is a clear victory for TransCanada Corp., the company behind the project. Among other things, it could give the state permission to use eminent-domain laws to evict landowners who own property on the path of the pipeline. Nebraska emerged as an epicenter of opposition to the project, which would stretch more than 1,100 miles from Alberta, Canada, to the southern part of the state, where it would join up with existing pipelines. Rejected by President Obama in 2015, the pipeline was approved by the Trump administration in May.

The regulators’ new plans for the pipeline takes it farther north than TransCanada had wanted, and it’s not clear whether the company will acquiesce on that point. If constructed, the pipeline, which would be an add-on to the existing Keystone pipeline that was completed in 2010, would carry an estimated 830,000 barrels of oil a day.

Just days ago, 210,000 gallons of oil leaked from the Keystone pipeline in South Dakota, raising the kind of concerns opponents to Keystone XL have been warning about for years.

Keystone XL Pipeline Clears Major Regulatory Hurdle