NE Rejects Keystone XL Firm's Change Request
TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline plan is in further jeopardy after Nebraska regulators denied the energy company’s request to change its application retroactively.
Last month, the Nebraska Public Service Commission voted 3-2 to approve the long-delayed pipeline in the state, the final state-level approval required after TransCanada reopened its application for the project earlier this year. But the PSC approved the “Mainline Alternative Route” rather than TransCanada’s preferred route.
The route approved by the PSC was not the same one approved by federal regulators, who examined the company’s preferred route, and aspects of the Mainline Alternative, such as its crossing of the Sandhills region, could open it up to lawsuits from activists and citizens.
TransCanada filed a motion Nov. 27, a week after the approval was granted, requesting an opportunity to file an amended application for the Mainline Alternative, a move that if approved may have allowed the company to make changes to avoid some legal action. In denying the motion unanimously, the PSC threw the project into further question.
The company has 30 days to appeal the ruling.
TransCanada Still Undecided
Lawsuits over the pipeline’s routing could add years to the project’s timeline—if TransCanada chooses to go through with construction at all.
While the company was serious about the plan when it was first proposed in 2008, and sued the U.S. government in 2016 after the administration of former President Barack Obama rejected its application in 2015, it has said more recently that it is still considering the pipeline’s commercial viability before making a final decision regarding construction.
President Donald J. Trump invited TransCanada to reopen its application for the project days after he took office in January; the federal government issued its approval, and Nebraska’s OK, given on Nov. 20, was the last major regulatory hurdle for the line.
TransCanada to restart #Keystone pipeline on Tuesday. @nia_eleri reports: https://t.co/8eoSPVCNU7 $TRP pic.twitter.com/JEeu2Gcmpf— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) November 28, 2017
Still in play, though, in addition to possible lawsuits, is the economic context surrounding the plan. While the United States has been the No. 1 importer of Canadian oil and gas by far for years, growing markets in Asia have driven Canadian energy companies to shift resources toward moving oil to tankers on the Pacific.
TransCanada has yet to make a final announcement as to whether it will continue to pursue the pipeline; the result of the motion to amend its routing and any subsequent appeals could affect the company’s decision. According to Reuters, a TransCanada spokesperson said after the reading that the company believes the pipeline is economically viable and has support from many government bodies.
In November, just as Keystone XL received conditional approval from the Nebraska PSC, TransCanada’s Keystone Pipeline experienced a leak that released a reported 5,000 barrels of oil in Amherst, South Dakota. Preliminary reports indicate that the leak came about as a result of damage to the pipeline coating or the pipeline itself inflicted during its original construction in 2008.
The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission said last month that if an investigation uncovers violations of TransCanada’s permit, the state could revoke the company’s license to operate.