360-degree look at reaction to Keystone XL pipeline approval

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Keystone XL will be a shorter route for Canadian crude to the United States, and this route, as per Nebraskan regulators' conditions, will pass close to that of the Keystone pipeline.

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. She noted that the State Department, the lead federal permitting agency, did not analyze the alternative route.

The Sierra Club highlighted TransCanada's own criticism of the mainline alternative route in its application, where it said the alternative would increase the crossing of highly sensitive soils and ecosystems.

Last week, TransCanada reported a 5,000-barrel spill from the existing Keystone pipeline in a rural part of South Dakota.

The lawsuit was brought in March by the Indigenous Environmental Network, Center for Biological Diversity and other environmental groups against the administration and TransCanada, which is building the pipeline. "This is the equivalent of asking a distant relative for permission to do a major construction in your backyard", she wrote. But it opens new questions that she said her group would likely explore in federal court.

The impetus for the controversial pipeline has been to provide transportation for the thick bitumen produced in Alberta to the gulf coast.

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The Association of Oil Pipe Lines hailed the decision, saying that Nebraska sales and construction equipment use tax revenues would generate $16.5 million for state government.

The pipeline may also be more commercially viable given declining heavy oil production in Mexico and ongoing instability in Venezuela, said Zachary Rogers, a refining and oil markets research analyst at Wood Mackenzie, said in a statement. And climate change activists are trying to block increased output in the oil sands region, where high amounts of energy are needed to extract the oil. The firm said that any party could appeal the PSC order within 30 days.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris in Great Falls, Montana, dismissed U.S. Justice Department arguments that the court had no authority to second-guess the cross-border permit that was issued by the State Department.

However some landowners in the county who could be in the pipeline's path don't want the company to take over their land.

The Sierra Club also greeted the commission's decision as a partial victory.

"As a result of today's decision, we will conduct a careful review of the Public Service Commission's ruling while assessing how the decision would impact the cost and schedule of the project", Russ Girling, TransCanada's president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. "It's a matter of when and I wouldn't want my land to be contaminated, with the water underneath".

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