Nebraska’s Public Service Commission just approved letting the TransCanada Corp.’s controversial Keystone XL pipeline bisect their state. On a three-to-two vote, the commission voted to let construction of the pipeline begin, however, the route they approved is an alternative route for the pipeline that would connect Canada’s Alberta oil sands to refineries in the United States. That has given the project’s opponents—including environmental conservationists, Native American tribes, and landowners along the pipeline’s prospective route—new grounds for arguing against the pipeline, as the new route has not been as thoroughly vetted, Bloomberg reports.
Reuters dubbed the news “a win for Trump,” who has made completing the Keystone pipeline a priority in his effort to boost the U.S. energy industry. However, despite the commission’s approval, the pipeline is likely to be challenged in court by opponents who say the project is an environmental risk, particularly in light of the fact that just days ago, part of the Keystone system spilled 5,000 barrels in South Dakota. Per Al Jazeera, the commission could not take the spill into consideration in their decision, because that issue is under federal jurisdiction and the pipeline already has an environmental permit.
However according to the commissioner’s report, they are very aware of the issue, writing: “The Commission is very cognizant of the fact that opening a
trench that entirely bísects the State of Nebraska from North to
South to insert a 36-inch pipe will have impacts to the natural
resources of the state, including soil, water, and wildlife. It is
impossible to complete such a project without impacts. There is no
utopian option where we reap the benefits of an infrastructure
project without some effects.” Despite their concerns, the commission believes the benefits to Nebraska are worth the risks.