Advocates of the Keystone XL oil pipeline have won a victory in their long effort to construct the project, as the Nebraska Supreme Court upheld a state commission's 2017 finding that supported the project's latest route alignment through the state.
But the long-planned, still-unbuilt project still faces several other hurdles, including three other lawsuits from project opponents that are pending in federal courts.
In its decision, issued on Aug. 23, the Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the state Public Service Commission's 2017 determination that the new pipeline route was in the public interest.
Keystone XL, a 36-inch-diameter pipeline, originates in Hardesty, Alberta, in Canada's tar sands region and is planned to run 1,182 miles to Steele City, Neb. Its estimated cost is $8 billion.
The Nebraska segment that is at issue in the state court case stretches about 280 miles, from the South Dakota border to Steele City. At that point XL would link up with an operating pipeline that extends to Port Arthur, Texas.
Pipeline opponents said in a conference call with reporters that they were disappointed by the Nebraska court’s decision but they pledged to continue their campaign to block the project.
Jane Kleeb, founder of the anti-Keystone organization Bold Nebraska, told reporters, "We have stopped this pipeline for the past 10 years and we plan on making sure that the pipeline never touches our soil.”
Officials at TC Energy, the pipeline's builder, welcomed the court ruling. Russ Girling, the company's president and chief executive officer, said in a statement that the court’s decision “is another important step as we advance towards building this vital energy infrastructure project.” TC Energy, based in Calgary, Alberta, was formerly named TransCanada.
In November 2015, the Obama administration's State Dept. denied TransCanada's application for a permit to build the project across the U.S. border. At that point, plans for the pipeline already had spanned about seven years. [View 2015 ENR story here.]
But in March 2017, President Trump—in office for only about two months—reversed that decision and gave the pipeline approval to proceed. [View 2017 story here.] But the controversy and challenges to the Nebraska segment have blocked construction.
Name of state commission corrected on Aug. 26. It is the Nebraska Public Service Commission.