Just four days after TransCanada’s Keystone Pipeline leaked over 200,000 gallons of oil across a large swath of South Dakota farmland, the Nebraska Public Service Commission on Monday granted the oil giant a major permit to move ahead with its $8 billion Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands project—a decision environmentalists and tribal leaders decried as an embrace of climate denial and Big Oil.
“By siding with a Canadian company rather than their own constituents, Nebraska’s commissioners are endangering our nation’s water and climate,” Andrea McGimsey, Environment America’s Global Warming Solutions director, said in a statement. “The arguments in favor of stopping the pipeline expansion—cleaner air, cleaner water, and a better climate for the people of Nebraska and the nation—clearly should have outweighed TransCanada’s short-term economic gain.”
“This shortsighted and dangerous decision is a slap in the face to the people of Nebraska and the hundreds of thousands of Americans who weighed in this year urging the Public Service Commission to stop the pipeline,” CREDO deputy political director Josh Nelson added.
The five-member commission’s vote clears the way for TransCanada to begin construction of a pipeline that would transport hundreds of thousands of tar sands oil per day, though not along the company’s preferred route. The board approved what was termed the “mainline alternative route,” a move that presents new challenges as it “would require the company to reach property easement agreements with a new group of landowners,” notes Paul Hammel of the Omaha World-Herald.
But climate groups were quick to delcare that the alternative route does not remedy the threat posed by oil and gas pipelines more broadly.
“Whatever the route, shipping more dirty tar sands through America’s heartland at the expense of our climate and communities remains unacceptable,” said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune.
Despite the board’s decision to green-light KXL, environmentalists remained confident that the pipeline will not be built, due to both to economic and legal challenges.
Nonetheless, environmentalists and tribal leaders vowed to mobilize to prevent KXL and other pipelines from further threatening the nation’s water supplies and fueling the climate crisis.
“This fight is far from over,” May Boeve, executive director of 350.org, said in a statement. “By pushing Keystone XL onto a new route, the commission all but guaranteed more delays and hurdles for TransCanada to work through. We’ll be there with our allies pushing back on them every step of the way.”
“Regardless of the Public Service Commission’s decision today, millions of people across the country will continue to speak out and demand that the Keystone XL project never gets built,” Brune concluded. “Our movement defeated this pipeline once, and we will do it again.”