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Editorial: Keystone XL's long, winding path takes another turn

Editorial: Keystone XL's long, winding path takes another turn

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The Keystone XL pipeline now has an approved path through Nebraska, although not a sure one.

Credit the Nebraska Public Service Commission for concluding the pipeline is in the public interest, while respecting Nebraskans’ concerns about risks to land and water by selecting an alternate route.

The PSC’s 3-2 vote Monday pushes the pipeline farther east than the route developer TransCanada preferred, which the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality approved in 2013.

Monday’s order said the new route would disrupt fewer new acres by conforming more to the path of the existing Keystone pipeline and would allow faster response to any problems. The revised route also encroaches less on the migration route of the whooping crane, an endangered species.

It’s not clear whether the new route would require new environmental impact studies or additional regulatory steps.

TransCanada must weigh whether the $8 billion project remains economically and politically viable in an era of lower oil prices and increased public pressure to burn fewer fossil fuels. Nine years ago, when TransCanada began its application process in Nebraska, oil sold for $150 a barrel. On Tuesday it sold for $56 a barrel.

The pipeline would be a potential asset to national security by providing improved access to reliable oil supplies from a stable neighbor and trading partner.

PSC approval gives the project a chance. The next step is up to TransCanada.

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Related to this story

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In a 3-2 vote, the Nebraska Public Service Commission approved the so-called “mainline alternative route” for the 36-inch crude oil pipeline, a slightly different path than the preferred route proposed by TransCanada. 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.

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A week ago, the landowners asked for the hearing, arguing that pipeline firm TransCanada had submitted only one “preferred” route across Nebraska for approval by the PSC, and since that route wasn’t chosen, a new application is required. The landowners also want to address a reconsideration motion filed by TransCanada. The firm wants to be allowed to file an amended application to include more information about the “mainline alternative route” chosen by the PSC.

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