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Nebraska Regulators to Rule on Keystone XL

Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline constructed solar panels along the project's route. (Bold Nebraska)
Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline constructed solar panels along the project's route. (Bold Nebraska)
November 20, 2017

Update: The Nebraska Public Service Commission partially approved the Keystone XL pipeline route, relegating it to the mainline alternative route instead of TransCanada’s preferred route directly over the Ogallala aquifer and Sandhills.

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Today could be a turning point in the story of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. The Nebraska Public Service Commission is expected to announce its decisions on whether to approve TransCanada's proposed route.

The ruling is the final regulatory hurdle for the project that has been long-delayed by legal challenges. Bold Nebraska is among the groups opposed to the pipeline, and founder Jane Kleeb said this will be a crucial decision for property rights and clean water.

"Nebraska has always been, and I think will always be, the last holdout on this pipeline,” Kleeb said. "You know, if it wasn't for Nebraska, this pipe would have been buried a long time ago, but the farmers and the ranchers and the Nebraska tribes have really stood strong on their property rights and their sovereign rights."

Supporters contend the pipeline will generate jobs and provide economic benefits. The commission must decide if the pipeline is in the public interest of Nebraskans.

As it connects oil sands in Canada to U.S. refineries, the $8 billion pipeline would cut through the Nebraska Sand Hills and Niobrara River Valley. Kleeb said there’s too much at risk.

"The pipeline route also goes through the Ogallala Aquifer. And we're really concerned about the shallow parts of the aquifer in the Sand Hills, since the Sand Hills really acts like a sponge, replenishing water for the aquifer for all of us to use,” she said. “And so a spill in that area would be devastating for our water supply."

She said the state and the country need to move toward renewable sources of energy. That's why opponents have been constructing solar panels inside the pipeline's route.

"We did that to really show the energy that we want to see built in our state that protects our land and water,” Kleeb said. "And it would be a source of creative civil disobedience if the pipeline were to get permitted; you would see thousands of people surrounding those solar panels because they would have to tear them down in order to put their pipeline in."

No matter what the commission decides, the ruling can be appealed and other legal challenges could follow.

Mary Schuermann Kuhlman/Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - NE