The Keystone XL pipeline, an $8 billion project that has attracted significant protest from environmental groups, has cleared a major regulatory hurdle on its path to completion. On Monday, the Nebraska Public Service Commission certified the pipeline to run through the state.
The commission — "an elected panel of four Republicans and one Democrat," according to the New York Times — approved the project by a 3-2 vote Monday. Though they did so with some reservations: The regulators rejected TransCanada's preferred route through the state, suggesting another one farther east that would avoid the state's Sandhills region.
The Omaha World-Herald explains how this might complicate matters:
"The alternative route selected by the PSC runs east of TransCanada's preferred route and makes the pipeline cross parts of six counties not previously in the path of Keystone XL. So it would require the company to reach property easement agreements with a new group of landowners. ...
"The state's OK does not mean the pipeline will be built. Opponents have promised to file lawsuits to challenge the project, and TransCanada has said it won't decide until December if it has enough shippers to make the $8 billion project financially feasible."
Nevertheless, the move marks something of a victory for the Trump administration and other Republicans, who have thrown their political muscle behind the proposed pipeline to transport crude oil between Canada and Texas' Gulf Coast. They and other supporters of the pipeline argue that it will lower fuel prices and create jobs.
Earlier this year, the State Department issued a presidential permit for the pipeline's construction, reversing an Obama-era decision that prevented the project from progressing due to environmental concerns.