State Department studying Nebraska decision

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The Latest on Nebraska regulators deciding whether to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline through the state (all times local):

3:45 p.m.

The U.S. State Department is looking into whether Nebraska's approval of a modified route for the Keystone XL pipeline will affect the federal permit that pipeline developer TransCanada received in March.

A State Department spokeswoman said Monday that the agency was aware of the Nebraska Public Service Commission's decision and was trying to get more information about it.

President Donald Trump approved the presidential permit for the pipeline in March and hailed it as "incredible." Federal approval was required because the pipeline would cross the U.S. border from Canada to Phillips County, Montana.
___

2 p.m.

The chairman of a Native American tribe in South Dakota says members are "highly disappointed" Nebraska regulators approved the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline after an oil spill near the tribe's reservation.

Dave Flute is the tribal chairman of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate. Flute said Monday his tribe will stand with other tribal nations to oppose pipelines.

Nebraska regulators voted earlier Monday to approve a route for the pipeline through the state. The vote came just days after an estimated 210,000 gallons (794,913 liters) of oil spilled near the tribe's land in South Dakota from TransCanada Corp.'s existing Keystone pipeline.

Nebraska officials have said state law didn't allow regulators to consider pipeline safety as a factor in their decision.

TransCanada wants to build the nearly 1,200-mile Keystone XL pipeline from Canada through several states, including South Dakota. Opponents in South Dakota are also fighting the project in court.

__

12:30 p.m.

The developer of the Keystone XL oil pipeline says it plans to review a Nebraska regulator's decision to approve a different route through the state than what the company had preferred.

TransCanada CEO Russ Girling said Monday that the company will assess how the ruling would affect the project's schedule and cost. He offered no further comment.

The alternative route follows the same path as the company's preferred route through northern Nebraska then veers southeast, away from the diagonal path of the preferred route, until it meets up with the original Keystone pipeline in southern Stanton County, Nebraska.

The alternative route would then run alongside the existing pipeline until it connects with that pipeline in Steele City, Nebraska.

___

11:20 a.m.

Opponents of the Keystone XL oil pipeline say a Nebraska commission's decision to approve an alternative route will enable them to take actions that could indefinitely block the project.

The Nebraska Public Service Commission on Monday approved a route for the proposed pipeline, but it veers away from a route preferred by developer TransCanada and approved by the federal government.

Pipeline opponents already had planned to appeal the commission's decision in court. They say the panel's decision on Monday brings up new issues that could be challenged in court.

Ken Winston is an attorney representing environmental groups. He says the vote, "opens up a whole new bag of issues that we can raise."

Jane Kleeb, heads the pipeline opposition group Bold Alliance. She says her group believes TransCanada will have to seek another federal review of the route in a process that could take years.

___

10:15 a.m.

A Nebraska commission has approved an alternative Keystone XL route through the state, removing the last regulatory hurdle to the $8 billion oil pipeline project.

The Nebraska Public Service Commission voted on the long-delayed project Monday, though the decision could still be challenged in court. The commission was forbidden by law from considering a recent oil spill on the existing Keystone pipeline in its decision.

The alternative route would run farther north than the originally proposed route.

TransCanada Corp.'s plan to build a nearly 1,200-mile (1,931-kilometer) pipeline faces intense opposition from environmental groups, Native American tribes and some landowners.

Business groups and some unions support the project as a way to create jobs. President Donald Trump issued a federal permit allowing for the project in March, reversing President Barack Obama administration's rejection of it.

____

Original story:

Nebraska regulators are set to decide Monday whether to approve or deny an in-state route for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. It's the last major regulatory hurdle facing project operator TransCanada Corp.

The Nebraska Public Service Commission's ruling is on the Nebraska route TransCanada has proposed to complete the $8 billion, 1,179-mile pipeline to deliver oil from Alberta, Canada, to Texas Gulf Coast refineries. The proposed Keystone XL route would cross parts of Montana, South Dakota and most of Nebraska to Steele City, Nebraska.

A vote in favor of the company's proposed route through Nebraska would give a boost to the long-delayed project, which was rejected by President Barack Obama in 2015, citing concerns about carbon pollution. President Donald Trump revived it in March, approving a permit.

The project has faced a barrage of criticism from environmental activists and some landowners for nearly a decade. A ruling against the company would cast renewed doubt on the proposal and could lead to another drawn-out legal fight.

Here are some things to know about the decision:

__

WHAT OPTIONS DOES THE COMMISSION HAVE?

The five-member Nebraska Public Service Commission is forbidden by law from factoring pipeline safety or the risk of spills into its decision because pipeline safety is a federal responsibility. So, it will not take into account a spill of 210,000 gallons of oil on the existing Keystone pipeline in South Dakota announced on Thursday.

The simplest choice is a yes-or-no vote on TransCanada's "preferred route" through a dozen Nebraska counties. But the commission could include major caveats that would add years to the project's timetable.

Commissioners could tweak TransCanada's proposed route, or pick one of the company's "alternative" routes. Company officials have said their preferred route causes the least amount of disruption.

If the commission denies the request outright, state law gives TransCanada a 60-day window to revise and resubmit its proposal for another review.

"It's not as simple as a 'guilty' or 'not guilty' verdict," said Brian Jorde, an attorney for Nebraska landowners who are fighting the project.

No matter what the commission decides, any group that presented arguments at an August hearing could appeal the decision to a state district court. The case would likely end up before the Nebraska Supreme Court.

__

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE DECISION?

The commission's vote could play a pivotal role in whether TransCanada moves ahead with the pipeline. After years of lobbying for the project, TransCanada acknowledged in a July conference call that executives won't decide until late November or early December whether to begin construction.

TransCanada spokesman Matthew John reiterated that timeline on Wednesday.

"We're going through the process with every intention to get this project built," John said. "But there are factors that we need to work out prior to making that decision," including regulatory approval in Nebraska.

John said the company also needs to finalize its contracts with shippers that want to use the pipeline.

TransCanada has been working to line up long-term contracts for the pipeline, which can carry an estimated 830,000 barrels a day. The company has not announced the results of its open season bidding process, which ended Oct. 26.

__

WILL THERE BE PROTESTS IF THE COMMISSION APPROVES THE PIPELINE?

Opponents in August vowed to stage mass protests against the pipeline if Nebraska regulators approve it, but say they will exhaust legal options first.

Pipeline opponents have lined parts of the proposed route with obstacles, including trees, solar panels, sacred corn from the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska and a barn powered by renewable energy. Some opponents may try to physically block construction and have likened their resistance to the activists who protested the Dakota Access Pipeline in Standing Rock, North Dakota.

__

IS KEYSTONE XL STILL FEASIBLE?

Despite low oil prices and repeated delays, TransCanada has a strong financial incentive to keep pursuing the pipeline, said Zachary Rogers, a Houston-based analyst for Wood Mackenzie, an energy research and consulting firm.

Rogers said Western Canadian producers have been forced to ship their product by train, which is more expensive than a pipeline, and Keystone XL would reduce costs and improve their bottom line.

At the same time, Texas refineries face uncertainty because of political instability in Venezuela, one of their top oil sources, and a slowdown in Mexican production.

"Western Canada has been held captive by geography and hasn't been able to cheaply access the markets," Rogers said. "Any opportunity for them to get better access will buoy their margins."

___

Follow Grant Schulte on Twitter at https://twitter.com/GrantSchulte

(Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)



 
Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station. powered by Disqus