NE Court Approves Keystone XL Pipeline


In a move that clears another hurdle for the Keystone XL pipeline, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled its approval of an alternate route for the pipeline that was proposed by TC Energy, once known as TransCanada. According to NPR, the alternate route was barely certified in 2017.

In the recent ruling, the panel decided that Nebraska’s Public Service Commission, in granting a permit for the route, acted correctly.

Keystone XL Pipeline History

The 1,179-mile Keystone XL was first proposed by TransCanada in 2008 and was subject to years of reviews and delays before the State Department under former President Barack Obama rejected the plan in late 2015 on the grounds that it was not in the national interest of the United States. During the seven years that the line was under consideration, it had become a lightning rod for environmental activists.

When President Donald J. Trump entered office, one of his first acts was to formally invite TransCanada to reapply for permission to build the line; the company did, and quickly received permits from the federal government.

The 36-inch diameter pipe would carry crude from the oil fields of Alberta to Steele City, where it will then be moved via other pipelines to terminals in the Midwest and Gulf Coast. According to TransCanada, water crossings along the line will be made via horizontal directional drilling in order to minimize environmental impact, and the pipe under rivers will be made of thicker steel and protected with abrasion-resistant coatings to reduce the risk of damage that could lead to an underwater release.

In August 2018, Judge Brian Morris, of the U.S. District Court in Montana, ruled that the State Department’s environmental assessment of the long-delayed pipeline’s new route was insufficient and that the project required a full Environmental Impact Statement before it could be approved to move forward. In September, the State provided its Draft Supplemental EIS, which finds that the line would have negligible to minor impacts on most of the resources studied.

In mid-November, Morris cited in his ruling that the Trump administration had not justified granting a permit for the project, and that the State Department disregarded issues regarding climate change to further the project’s agenda. In early December, Morris ruled that TransCanada would be permitted to continue preliminary work on the Keystone XL oil pipeline, though the State Department would conduct another environmental review of the project.

In March of this year, the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied TransCanada’s motion to overturn the stoppage. By April, Trump issued a new presidential permit for the pipeline, one that the president said replaced the one he granted more than two years ago. In June, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rolled back a previous injunction that had halted construction on the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Recent Ruling

According to The Hill, the environmental groups that had originally challenged the pipeline denounced the recent ruling, with Ken Winston, attorney for the Nebraska Sierra Club, noting that the “fight to stop this pipeline is far from over."

Three active federal lawsuits remain in Montana that seek to block construction, along with threats of protest from Native American groups.

According to the Omaha World-Herald, Mark LaCour, editor of the Oil and Gas Global Network, said that he expects Keystone XL to eventually be built, due to the demand for heavy crude oil. But when that will actually happen has yet to be determined.

The 59-page opinion, written by Supreme Court Judge Jeffrey Funke, pointed out that the State Legislature had placed its trust in the commission to determine if oil pipeline routes were in the public interest. The commission voted 3-2 in 2017 to approve the alternative route, a move that has XL running alongside the pre-existing Keystone pipeline for another 90 miles.

“The Supreme Court decision is another important step as we advance towards building this vital energy infrastructure project,” said Russ Girling, TC Energy’s President and Chief Executive Officer.

“We thank the thousands of government leaders, landowners, labor unions and other community partners for their continued support through this extensive review process. It has been their unwavering support that has advanced this project to where it is today.”


Tagged categories: Government; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Oil and Gas; Pipelines; Program/Project Management

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