Public Service Commission approves in-state pipeline route

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LINCOLN, Neb. - The Nebraska Public Service Commission voted 3-2 to approve the proposed Keystone XL pipeline route in Nebraska. Commissioners picked one of the company's "alternative" routes.

Three commissioners voted for the route: Frank Landis Jr., Tim Schram and Rod Johnson. The two commissioners who voted no are Crystal Rhoades and Mary Ridder.

The Nebraska Public Service Commission's ruling is on the Nebraska route TransCanada has proposed to complete the $8 billion, 1,179-mile pipeline to deliver oil from Alberta, Canada, to Texas Gulf Coast refineries. The Keystone XL route would cross parts of Montana, South Dakota and most of Nebraska to Steele City, Nebraska.

Art Tanderup is a landowner who opposes the pipeline. He said that he doesn’t want Transcanada to steal the land.

“We have to stay strong and we have to keep up the work of stopping it,” he said.

But for the Ponca Tribe, the Ogallala Aquifer is the main priority.

“We’ll continue to fight the Keystone route and what it means for out water, our land and future generations and resources,” said Larry Wright Jr., chairman of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska.

The vote gives a boost to the long-delayed project, which was rejected by President Barack Obama in 2015, citing concerns about carbon pollution. President Donald Trump revived it in March, approving a permit.

The project has faced a barrage of criticism from environmental activists and some landowners for nearly a decade.

The five-member Nebraska Public Service Commission is forbidden by law from factoring pipeline safety or the risk of spills into its decision because pipeline safety is a federal responsibility. So, it did not take into account a spill of 210,000 gallons of oil on the existing Keystone pipeline in South Dakota announced on Thursday.

The commission approved the route in orange, not the company's preferred route in green (see image below).

"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.

Those who made arguments in August have the option to file an appeal within 30 days. Those same parties can also petition to the commission for a rehearing within 10 days.

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