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Nebraska Public Service Commission Approves Alternate Route for Keystone XL Pipeline

Opposition continues to all potential routes for Keystone XL pipeline

The completed route of the Keystone XL pipeline is closer to fruition. The Nebraska Public Service Commission approved an alternate route for the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline project through the state. The Commission approved the alternate route by a three-to-two vote. TransCanada, the company building the pipeline, stated that it is evaluating the decision.

“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 officer, in a statement.

President Trump issued an executive order approving the Keystone XL pipeline in March. Former President Obama had rejected the proposed pipeline in 2015. When constructed, the pipeline will be 1,700 miles long and transport about 800,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta, Canada to Gulf Coast refineries. It will pass through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma.

Diverse opposition to Keystone

A coalition of people opposed to the pipeline, including Indigenous peoples, farmers, and ranchers living along the pipeline route, are calling for people to peacefully resist the project. In a letter, the coalition state that their “allies in Nebraska will challenge this decision,” and called for “creative resistance.” The coalition asks people to join the “Promise to Protect” by signing up on its website.

Environmental groups are standing with the Promise to Protect coalition in opposing the pipeline. Friends of the Earth is one of them. Ben Schreiber, Friends of the Earth Senior Political Strategist, said in a statement that the “fight to stop the Keystone XL pipeline is not over…

“we will see them in court.”

Sierra Club is another environmental organization that opposes the pipeline. “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,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, in a statement.

“Our movement defeated this pipeline once, and we will do it again.”

Four days before Nebraska Public Service Commission approved the alternate route, the Keystone pipeline sprung a leak in South Dakota spilling 210,000 gallons of oil. TransCanada downplayed the spill, stating that the section of the pipe that leaked “was completely isolated within 15 minutes and emergency procedures were activated.”

The oil spill is not the first problem TransCanada has had. The company was involved in 21 incidents during Keystone I pipeline’s first year of operation. In a letter sent to the company in 2015, U.S. regulators noted 56 deficiencies in the company’s operations of the pipeline from Steel City, Nebraska to Pakota, Illinois.

The oil that the pipeline transports comes from the tar sands in Alberta, which is extracted using a method called hydraulic fracturing, or better known as fracking. It is a drilling technique that pumps water, proppant, and chemical additives in at high pressure down a wellbore into rock formations to extract oil. Gasoline made from tar sands produces about 15 percent more carbon emissions than gasoline from conventional oil, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The reason is that fracking is energy intensive.

“The only safe solution for oil and fossil fuels is to keep them in the ground,” said Schreiber in a statement concerning the oil spill in South Dakota.

Indeed it is, a fact that those who oppose the Keystone XL pipeline grasp.


Image: Michael Fleshman, courtesy Flickr
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