Nebraska approves path of Keystone XL pipeline

Nebraska’s Supreme Court has approved the path of the Keystone XL pipeline, settling a court battle that has been going on for years. Naturally, this outcome is not sitting well with environmental groups like the Sierra Club. From the Hill:

The decision filed Friday by the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that “after months of careful consideration” the court found evidence that showed the plans were in the “public interest,” and that the state’s Public Service Commission acted appropriately when it approved the path for the pipeline through Nebraska…

Environmental groups who challenged the permit in court denounced the ruling Friday as failing to consider the environmental impacts of the pipeline’s construction.

“It’s disappointing that the court ignored key concerns about property rights and irreparable damage to natural resources, including threats to the endangered whooping crane, but today’s ruling does nothing to change the fact that Keystone XL faces overwhelming public opposition and ongoing legal challenges and simply never will be built,” said Ken Winston, attorney for the Nebraska Sierra Club, in a statement.

“The fight to stop this pipeline is far from over.”

The Lincoln Journal Star describes some of the bureaucratic minutiae at issue in the case:

Friday’s ruling stemmed from the Nebraska Public Service Commission 3-2 vote nearly two years ago in favor of an “alternative route” for the project instead of developer TC Energy’s preferred pathway. Opponents filed a lawsuit arguing the company didn’t follow all the required procedures for the alternative route, in violation of state law.

Attorneys for the opponents argued that TC Energy’s application with the commission was valid only for its preferred route, and the company formerly known as TransCanada could seek approval only for one route at a time. Nebraska state attorneys disputed that claim, saying that the commission’s decision complied with the law and was in the public’s interest.

The court sided with the Public Service Commission. However, there is still a separate federal lawsuit in Montana that hasn’t been resolved and protesters are once again threatening to gear up as they did in North Dakota to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline. Those efforts made a lot of news but eventually failed. The Dakota Access Pipeline was completed and has been pumping oil for more than a year now.

For opponents of Keystone XL, a change in their favor could come in 2021. Elizabeth Warren has already promised to revoke Trump’s permit for the pipeline if elected:

President Obama rejected the Keystone XL in 2015 but President Trump reversed that during his first week in office. That led to additional court battles and all construction was halted by a judge in November 2018. In March of this year, President Trump issued a new permit which superseded the previous one. That move ended an ongoing legal battle over the previous permit and caused an injunction against the pipeline to be lifted. But the legal battles aren’t over yet and at this point, opponents are probably hoping a more progressive president will give them the win they haven’t been able to achieve through the courts.